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37, Norfolk Street, Strand, London. 

Note. — The British and Foreign Unitarian Association, in accord- 
ance with its First Rule, gives publicity to woi-ks calculated "to promote 
Unitarian Christianity by the diffusion of Biblical, theological, and 
literary knowledge, on topics connected with it," but does not hold 
itself responsible for every statement, opinion, or expression of the 

*^* For the notes in brackets in this work the author is not respon- 
sible. They have been contributed, with the Index, at the request of the 
Committee of the Association, by Alex. Gordon, M.A. 


■ ^ PAGE 

Preface to the English Translation, by Dr. Martineau v 

Chapter I. 

Is Unitarian Christianity of English origin? — Its relation to Wiclif 
and the Lollards ; |o Reginald Pecock ; to the Nonconformists. — 
The Anglican Church 23 

Chapter II. 

Was Unitarian Christianity imported into England from the Low 
Countries? — Its relation to Erasmus and the Anabaptists 38 

Chapter III. 
Is Unitarian Christianity of Alsatian or of Swiss origin ? — Capito. — 
Hooper and Puritanism. — Cranmer and the Strangers' Church... 52 

Chapter IV. 

Is Unitarian Christianity of Italian or Spanish origin ? — Antitrinita- 
rian tendencies of the Italian Reformation. — Influence of Juan 
de Valdes and Michael Servetus 67 

Chapter V. 

The Italian Reformed Churches in Switzerland. — Antitrinitarian 
Controversies. — Relations with England 87 

Chapter VI. 
The Strangers' Church in London. — Birth of the Unitarian idea ... 115 

Chapter VII. 

Bernardino Ochino, his religious development, and his influence on 
English theology. — Corranus 137 




Chapter VIII. PAr.E 
Acontius, his philosophical and religious ideas, and his influence on 
English theology 1 6 1 

Chapter IX. 

C Socinianism ; its two authors, Lelio and Fausto Sozzini ; stages of 

their doctrine, and its introduction into England 178 

Chapter X. 
Influence of the Anglo-Saxon genius on the development of English 
Unitarian Christianity: Bidle and Firmin. — Relations with the 
Latitudinarians, the Quakers, the New-Arians. — Milton, Locke 
and Newton I99 

Conclusion 217 


— Extract from the Confession of John Theol)ald, 1528 231 

— Extract from Erasmus' Preface, 1523, to Works of St. Hilary 232 
— Letters Patent of Edward VI., constituting the Strangers' 

Church in London, 1 550 236 

— Extract from Letter of the Geneva Ministers to the Ministers 

of East Friesland, 1566 243 

— Extract from Orisons Ministers' Questions on the Trinity, 1561 244 
— Confession of Faith imposed on Italian Church, Geneva, 1558 245 

— Organisation of the Strangers' Church, London, 1550 249 

— Letter from Microen to Bullinger respecting the first Unitarians 

of London, 1551 251 

— Formula of Retractation presented to Adriaans van Hamstede 

by the Bishop of London, 1562 257 

— Extract from Ochino's De Pw-gatorio, 1556 261 

— Letter of Pierre La Ramee to Acontius, 1 565 264 

— The inadequacy of the Apostles' Creed as a common Confes- 
sion among Protestants, according to Acontius, 1565 266 

— Letters of Lelio Sozini to Johann Wolff, 1554 — 1555 269 

— Extract from the Racovian Catechism, 1609 270 

— ^John Milton on the Unity of God, 1674 272 


The merits of this volume, as an example of special his- 
torical study, are so conspicuous, that it might well dispense 
with all external commendation : and from mine, I am well 
aware, no other advantage can be gained than such support 
as an old man's friendship and esteem may be supposed to 
afford to a young author's modesty. The investigation to 
which the following pages are devoted interests me the more, 
because it takes me up far less as the critic than as the 
learner, and leaves me grateful for new knowledge and for 
many a charming or impressive picture from the drama of 
the past. The author's problem, — to find the source of 
Unitarian Christianity in this country, — has naturally led 
him away from the main roads of the revolt from Rome, 
which ended in the Anglican, the Lutheran, and the Re- 
formed Churches, and thrown him into the eccentric by- 
paths of the Reformation, where the freer minds are sure 
to be found, and coherent thought is yet in the making. 
Whether or not he alights there on the true solution of his 
problem, I will not venture to pronounce ; but as he ques- 
tions group after group, and elicits their curious enthusiasms, 
and follows them in their flight from danger, to Emden, to 
London, to Chiavenna, to Basel, to Poland, he lays bare the 
very spirit of the times in its ferment of belief and struggle 
of character. 


To discover the origin of Christian Unitarianism in 
England we may proceed in either of two opposite direc- 
tions ; from the present formed results backwards, step by 
step, through the influences which have shaped them, as far 
as we can see our way ; or from the earliest traces of anti- 
trinitarian opinion that could move forward into these 
results. The latter is the method pursued by Professor 
Bonet-Maury, and is indeed rendered inevitable at last by 
the disappearance of clear historical continuity at the upper 
end. It involves the inquirer, and still more the reader, in 
a danger against which it is difficult to guard the imagination. 
As he searches through the dark places of the sixteenth 
century, the gleam which he wants turns up at more points 
than one, and visits him with rival possibilities of derivation ; 
and by the need of selection, the problem is apt to assume 
in his mind an alternative form : " Is this doctrine, in its 
beginning, indigenous or foreign? — if foreign, from the Latin 
races or the Germanic? — if the former, from Spain or Italy? 
— if the latter, from Saxony or Holland ? — if from Holland, 
from the Anabaptists of Delft, or the scholar of Rotterdam?"' 
Thus a host of hypotheses springs up, some of which may no 
doubt be put out of court by sufficient evidence of fact, but 
none of which can be taken as intrinsically excluding any 
other ; and yet the advocate of each is apt, in the eagerness 
of discussion, to believe himself possessed of the sole key to 
the problem. Unitarian theology is not so artificial a phe- 
nomenon that we are obliged to refer it, like the enunciation 
of Kepler's laws or the spectrum analysis, to a single dis- 
coverer. On the contrary, as a simple reversion from some- 
thing far more artificial than itself, it may well be expected, 
in an age which breaks up the stagnation of thought, to arise 


simultaneously as a function of many movements and in the 
experience of many minds. Nothing therefore precludes us 
from accepting for it, in its modern re-appearance, several 
concurrent beginnings, instead of a single line of filiation 
from a preferred historical source. 

The study of comparative mythology at one time consisted 
of little else than a fancied detection of identity, under the 
disguise of different names and symbols, between the gods 
of separated tribes, and the skilful use of this identity in 
evidence of a certain order of interdependence in the devel- 
opment and relations of these tribes. It is now well under- 
stood that the similarities insisted on imply no process of 
borrowing, that the growth of a mythology is a natural and 
traceable process in the mental history and crystalizing 
language of mankind, and can hardly fail, under the play of 
common psychological laws, to create resembling forms in 
races externally distinct. By its theory of the Mythos, 
philosophical philology has not only found a meaning for 
what appeared to be mere childish dreams, but restrained 
the aberrations of speculative history. No important belief 
can any longer have its story told from the outside. How- 
ever modified by surrounding conditions, and geographically 
conveyed to new regions, it has its root and aliment in the 
inward nature, as the expression of some want, the asser- 
tion of some affection which time and place will not wear 

The dissolution of a mythology is no less natural a process 
than its growth, and is indeed secured the moment we have 
discovered how it has grown. No one who sees in Zeus, 
Osiris and Isis, the personification of certain natural phe- 
nomena, or in Heracles, Romulus, and the Hebrew Messiah, 


the ideal genius of a race, can any longer pay them the homage 
expected at their temples or held due to their names. In 
the same way the objective reality of Trinitarian worship 
inevitably vanishes for one who knows the successive incre- 
ments by which its organism of doctrine has formed itself: 
to see its construction is to feel its dissolution. And even 
without this power of outwardly following a belief through 
its embryonic stages, the mere reflective sense of its internal 
incongruity or its contradiction to the better known, prac- 
tically cancels its Divine pretensions, and concentrates the 
soul's religion on what remains when it retires. But what is 
this natural residue of faith, when the enigma of tripersonality 
brings thought into confusion and the affections into conflict? 
Its object is simply the Unipersonal God, the beginning and 
the end of every perfection, the centre and the infinitude of 
all good. To be precipitated upon this faith, nothing more 
is needed than for a religious mind to find itself, from some 
cause or other, on uneasy terms with a doctrine which has 
various ways of offending the awakened reason and con- 
science. It ought not to surprise us therefore if, on the 
weakening of ecclesiastical pressure or the increased tension 
of spiritual independence, Unitarian theology repeatedly 
appears upon the scene, and enters it from several sides. 
In seeking for it everywhere, within the area of the Refor- 
mation, and in discriminating its different types, Professor 
Bonet-Maury works strictly within the limits of his inquiry. 
He deals in each case with what was, or at least might be, 
a vera causa of the phenomenon which he proposes to 
explain. He collects his resources before he allots to them 
their work ; assembling them, for the most part, at the 
" Foreigners' Church" in Austin Friars, where the seeds of 


many a heresy found, it would seem, if not a kindly soil, at 
least some stony ground for a brief flowering season. 

Among the several possible tributaries to English Uni- 
tarianism which were co-present there about the middle of 
the sixteenth century, some one influence must have taken 
the initiative. Was it the speculation of Servetus ? or the 
personal weight of Lselius Sozini ? or the spiritual catholicity 
of Ochino? or the devotion of the " Family of Love"? or 
the heroic piety of the Smithfield martyr, George van Parris? 
On reviewing the whole evidence. Professor Bonet-Maury 
assigns the first place to the Spanish and Italian writers and 
refugees ; and it is impossible to regret an opinion to which 
we owe his deeply interesting sketches of Servetus, of Valdes, 
of Altieri, of Ochino. But of these reformers, however ani- 
mated by evangelical freedom of spirit, Servetus alone 
departed from the orthodox Christology ; and the charac- 
teristics of their thought are so alien from the genius of the 
known Unitarianism in the 17th and i8th centuries, that 
any prior school which they might cause in the i6th would 
sit apart and fail to give us the requisite historical continuity. 
There are two ways in which a rank more than human has 
been provided for the person of Christ by those who could 
not admit his equality with the Father. Either he was a 
higher pre-existent nature sunk into manhood by incarnate 
birth ; or he was simply human to begin with, and through 
spiritual endowment and holy obedience exalted to Divine 
functions and near communion with the Indivisible God. 
The former conception, starting from the supernatural nati- 
vity and following it into the ministry of humiliation and 
sacrifice, has marked every form of Arianism. The latter, 
beginning, like Mark's Gospel, with the simply human pro- 


phet of Galilee, and then finding him, like Paul, reserved, 
immortal in the heavens, for judicial offices proper only to 
omniscient power, is the Socinian characteristic. Many 
English Unitarians have held, in conformity with the former, 
that Christ was made man ; but few, so far as I am aware, 
that he was made God. Even those who retained the escha- 
tology of a general resurrection and judgment have tried 
to bring these stupendous processes within the resources 
of an inspired humanity. If among the South European 
refugees in London this type of heresy had its votaries, it 
seems to have remained an exotic, and not to have repro- 
duced itself in English thought. 

The estimate which disciples make of the person of their 
Master is determined by their preconception of the work he 
has to do. Whatever that requires him to be, they cannot 
doubt that he really is. There are two aspects under which 
that work has presented itself to their minds — as Redemption 
and as Revelation — the former, a transaction, altering the 
real relations of persons and the very nature of things ; the 
latter, a superhuman enlargement of knowledge and showing 
of things as they are, without further change in them than 
may arise from clearer apprehension. To effect the former, 
—to abolish a primeval curse and neutralize the power of 
Sin and Death, to render pardon accessible and holiness 
possible, and re-open the closed gates of eternal life, — is 
to revolutionize the universe, and may well be deemed 
beyond the reach of any nature less than God. Certainly it 
is an infinite overmatch for a personality like ours, however 
filled to its utmost capacities by heavenly aids. But to be 
the organ of Revelation, — to have the incubus of spiritual 
doubt removed and the sad enigmas of life resolved, — to be 


inwardly told what we have longed to know, and see the 
mists disperse from the future we could never pierce, — this 
is but the flow of light upon the faculties we have, and needs 
no more than the open reason and purified conscience of 
a true Son of Man. Accordingly it is not among those 
reformers who approach Christianity from the Augustinian 
side, — not with Luther or the Swiss leaders, not with Fare), 
not even with Valdes and Ochino, — that we meet with dis- 
affection towards the received Christology ; they leave un- 
touched the Divine Drama of Salvation, and take nothing 
from its objective conditions or the portentous meaning of 
its Calvary ; but only snatch its benefits from sacerdotal 
grasp and distribution, and set them free for appropriation 
by personal faith, and for the emergence of a new life of the 
Spirit. This is the form of evangelic thought congenial to 
passionate and turbulent natures that need a foreign rescue 
from their own inward tyrannies. But there are quieter 
spirits, less storniy in their impulses and of more steadfast 
will, whose chief need for higher life is, to know more of 
higher things ; whose love is ready for any Divine Perfection 
that may be opened to their sight ; and who will enter at 
once upon any sanctifying trust or glorious hope from which 
the clouds may clear away. These it is that ask from 
Christianity nothing but Revelatmi ; who require therefore 
in its Author only the power to reveal, — that is, insight, 
however given, into the spiritual truth they miss. If they 
feel that, for this end, the incarnate appearance of God in 
person would be an incredible over-provision, they will natu- 
rally be the first to rest contented with the Humanity of 
Christ, as an adequate medium of light from heaven. If 
Luther represents the former class, Erasmus belongs by 


nature and by habit to the latter ; and certainly he was, if 
not Unitarian himself, at least a very early cause of Unita- 
rianism in others. Among scholars, his text of the New- 
Testament, in a far wider circle his exegetical Annotations, 
diffused anti-trinitarian modes of thought. If ever the Dutch 
and English Anabaptists, who disowned for the most part 
the doctrine of the Trinity, departed so far from their rigid 
Scripturalism as to cite a human authority in their defence, 
it was under his writings that they sheltered their heresy.^ 
His influence, moreover, entered as a factor into the Armi- 
nianism of Holland, and through this, as well as directly, 
into the Socinianism of Poland, and thence again into the 
Latitudinarianism of England ; which, in the writings of 
Hales, Chillingworth and Locke, is theologically indistin- 
guishable from Unitarian Christianity. In this line of 
descent, the phenomena appear to be continuous by natural 
heredity ; whilst the South European examples of anti-trini- 
tarian doctrine are sporadic, and do not seem to supply 
the true root of the English school. 

But there is one unorthodox influence so powerful and 
so extensively diffused as almost to supersede inquiry into 
the personal pedigree of English Unitarianism— I mean, the 
English Bible. It is difficult for us to realize the startling 
effect of throwing open to Europe in its vernacular tongues 
a Sacred Literature vehemently contrasted, in matter, in 
form, in spirit, with the ecclesiastical stereotype of Chris- 
tianity. For their impressions of the Saviour's life and 
person, the multitude had been dependent on pictures in 

^ See the curious Dialogue between the Inquisitor of Bruges and an 
Anabaptist, in Ch. II. 


the churches, which taught whatever the artist fancied ; and 
they knew as much about cherubs and angels and legendary 
saints, and things in heaven and things in hell, as about the 
Galilean lake and hills, and the gracious figure and real 
incidents that have consecrated them for ever. The cele- 
bration of the Mass, the repetitions counted by the Rosary, 
the resort to the Confessional, the submission to penance, 
the purchase of indulgences, the recital of the Creeds, the 
exercise of Mariolatry, set up in their imagination a vast 
mythology as the faith of Christendom. The Trinity is in 
every prayer ; the prayers go through the day ; and the 
church-days go through the year ; and at every turn, of 
nature or of grace, the Priest steps in to find it ill or make it 
good. Suppose a worshipper, with mind thus pre-occupied, 
to find, chained to a public desk within his church, one of 
the new Bibles in his own language, and to be so arrested 
by it as to forget what he came for, and stay with it while 
others pass on to the choir. As he reads, are the thoughts and 
images which the page throws upon his mind in tune with the 
familiar offices which he faintly overhears ? Does his atten- 
tion rest upon the suppliant cries of Psalmist or Prophet or 
Apostle or of the Man of Sorrows himself^They are silent 
of the " Holy, Blessed, and Glorious Trinity, three Persons 
and One God," wherein every church prayer finds its crown. 
Does he alight on the Pauline Unipersonal profession of 
theistic faith, " To us there is One God, the Father'" — Does 
then the Apostle's "One God" comprise no "Son," and no 
" Holy Ghost"? Does he read the story of the Last Supper, 
or the Apostolic instructions for its celebration at Corinth — 
Is this a Sacrament? Where is the Priest? Where, the 
Miracle? Where, the sacerdotal monopoly of the cup? Where, 


the "Unbloody Sacrifice"? It is the same all through. A 
mind surrendered, with the freshness and freedom which true 
piety gives, to the broad characteristics of the Scriptures, could 
not but suffer estrangement from the very essence of the eccle- 
siastical theory; — first, no doubt, escaping from its degrading 
imposture of priestly mediation, into immediate spiritual rela- 
tions with heaven ; but, ere long, irresistibly impressed by the 
purely monotheistic character of the Biblical Theology, and 
the genuine humanism of the Christology. The evangelical 
spirit that sprung from the re-opened "Word of God" was, 
in all its operations, a new birth of Religion into simplicity ; 
throwing off, to begin with, the incubus of church " works," 
and delivering the individual soul to the life of inward faith 
and love ; and then, in due time, reducing that inward faith 
itself to simpler terms, without the tangled threads which no 
thought could smooth into a consistent tissue. Starting from 
Luther's first-translated Pauline Epistles, it snatched Redemp- 
tion from the Altar and made it over to the Conscience. 
Concentrated next upon the Gospels, it identified itself with 
the Religion of Christ, and found the Revelation only the 
perfecting of Reason. It was the mission of Wiclif and the 
" Reformers before the Reformation" as well as at its outset, 
to carry the emancipation through the first stage ; of Crell 
and Biddle, of the Arminians and Latitudinarians, of Price 
and Priestley, of Channing, the Coquerels and Parker, to 
suffer no pause short of the second. 

Throughout this movement till very near its end, both 
impulse and direction have been due to the Scriptures, used 
as the charter of spiritual rights. By resort to this test every- 
thing has been accomplished. Fathers, Councils, Tradition, 
Donation of Constantine, Primacy of Peter, have been put 


to flight by rigorous loyalty to the "pure Word of Holy 
Writ,"— the "Naked Gospel," the "Oracles of God," as 
understood by the individual disciple's reason and con- 
science. The earlier Unitarians, notwithstanding their repute 
of rationalism, drew their doctrine out of the Scriptures, 
much to their own surprise, and did not import it into them. 
Biddle, for instance, declares that " he experienced his first 
doubts respecting the Trinity in reading the Bible, before 
he had ever seen a Socinian book." And how great a thirst 
was appeased by the opening of the long-sealed fountain of 
living waters may be judged from this— that the first enthu- 
siasm of the evangelic spirit, in both its forms, was for 
diffusing the Bible in the language of each land : till that 
was done, there was neither Redemption for the soul, nor 
Revelation of the truth. Nor was this estimate mistaken. 
The reforming energy became intense and persistent pre- 
cisely in those countries which early possessed a widely 
distributed version of the Scriptures in the spoken tongue, 
in Germany, Holland, Britain, and even France. Spain, on 
the other hand, though furnished with its translation about 
the middle of the i6th century, stood, like Italy, in such 
relations to Rome, that it was not publicly accessible. If 
the religious revolution failed in Southern Europe, it was not 
because the genius of the Latin races gave it no response, 
but (inter alia) because the new life, after its first pulsations 
had been suppressed, was without the permanent aliment 
which alone could again and again revive it and carry on its 

This general cause of modified doctrine, the vernacular 
Bible, is of course everywhere pre-supposed by the accom- 
plished author of the following Treatise, and neither supple- 


ments nor replaces any source to which he is disposed to 
trace the Unitarian Christianity of England. I dwell upon 
it only as a caution to the reader against excessive historical 
simplification — i.e. against insisting upon some single origin 
for an assemblage of facts whose unity may be not that of 
external concatenation, but that of internal agreement. Lay 
but the Christian records before a mind devout and clear, 
and leave them alone with each other, and is it wonderful if 
the Christianity of a Channing should emerge ? And if this 
may happen in one place, so may it in a hundred ; and the 
great river of faith which flows before us as a single stream, 
may be the blending of many rills descending from separated 
heights, and knowing nothing of each other till they mingle. 
With these few words, suggested by Professor Bonet- 
Maury's rich and instructive pages, I take my leave of him 
for the present, in the hope of ere long meeting him again, 
and the entire confidence that, when he speaks again, it will 
be to no small audience, English and American, rendered at 
once grateful and expectant by his first work. 

James Martineau. 




It is an opinion much in favour with historians that Pro- 
testantism is uncongenial to the Latin races. Nations of 
the Teutonic stock, it is affirmed, being by temperament ^^ 
incHned to reflection, have accepted Protestantism ; while 
the Southern populations, requiring a religion which speaks 
to eye and imagination as well, would of necessity reject it 
in the sixteenth century.^ A mere glance over the period of 
the spread of the Reformation (1512 — 1564) will convince 
us of the falsity of this conclusion. 

Let us leave out of account France, a country of mixed 
race, where it is scarcely contested any longer that the 
Reformation took deep root, especially in the South, as is 
proved by the existence of the Albigenses and the Waldenses. 
Let us take Spain and Italy. The twenty volumes of the 

^ Such seems to be the opinion of M. Taine, in his Histoire de 
la Litteratiire Anglaise (vol. ii. 288, 289), where he contrasts the 
serious and moral races of the North with the frivolous and irreligious 
peoples of the South. "The Reformation," says he, "is a Renascence 
appropi-iate to the genius of the Germanic nations." Cf. the contrary 
opinion of E. Renan, in his Lecture on "Judaism considered as a Race 
and a Religion," Revue Po/itique d Litteraire, 3 Feb. 18S3. 



collection of Spanish Reformers,^ and the sale in Italy of 
forty thousand copies of the Bcuefizio di Gesii Crista,^ are 
evidences of the enthusiastic reception won by the gospel, 
when offered to the Christian public in those very countries 
which certain writers beyond the Rhine would fain represent 
as effete, and unamenable to all moral and religious progress. 
Yet more, the long and still inexhaustive list of martyrs for 
the gospel in Italy and Spain proves that the populations of 
those countries had strongly felt the influence of the Reform 
movement ; so much so, that the Inquisition was obliged to 
have recourse to a veritable reign of terror and atrocious 
severities to avoid being vanquished. 

Moreover, the Reformation had its precursors in those 
countries also. In Spain, the Waldenses or Lconistas^ (men 
of Lyons), and the Alumbrados (enlightened), had reinstated 
evangelical worship ; in Italy, the principles of the Arnoldists 
and of the Abbot Joachim, and. the austere and prophetic 
voice of Savonarola, still found an echo in believing souls. 
In these two countries the labours of the writers of the 
Renascence, especially those of Pico della Mirandola and 
Erasmus, had caused an awakening of philosophic thought 
which was sure, sooner or later, to issue in a re-casting of 
dogma. Everything leads to the belief that if the secular 
arm had not supported the Roman Church by physical force, 
the latter would never have attained its end of re-consolidat- 
ing its power, which had been so signally shaken. That 
power was, in fact, undermined by the writings of Valdes, 
Servetus, Ochino, and the Sozzini. 

^ Los Reforniistas Aiitiguos EspaTwlcs. Edited by Usoz i Rio and 
Benjamin Wiifen. 20 vols. 8vo. London, i860 ff. 

^ Lichtenberger's Encyclopedic, art. Italic (Long). The Bcuefizio di 
Gcsii Cnsto, of which only two or three copies escaped the flames of the 
Inquisition, has been reprinted by Dr. Babington, Cambridge, 1855. 

■* [Leonistas = Lyonists, i. e. poor men of Lyons, from Leona, the 
Spanish name of the city. — Trans.] 


Had they come victorious out of the period of agitations 
and conflicts, the Spanish and Italian Protestants would have 
provided themselves with an ecclesiastical organization and a 
form of worship suitable to their national genius and satisfying 
all their religious needs, just as we see them doing nowadays 
under the re'gime of a legal toleration. This is no gratuitous 
assumption. AVhat we shall have to say hereafter concerning 
the churches of the Spanish and Italian exiles in various 
countries of Europe will complete the proof of our thesis, 
namely, that the Latin races were neither less desirous nor 
less capable of a religious reformation than the nations of 
the North ; and that they have been kept within the pale of 
the Roman Church far less by attachment to theatrical forms 
of worship than by the terror of the Inquisition, and by the 
constraint of the civil power allied with the Holy See. The 
fact is that, after the failure of the three professedly reform- 
ing Councils, Constanz, Basel and Pisa, a failure due in great 
part to the unconciliatory conduct of the Popes, all the nations 
of Western Europe were disgusted with the moral abuses and 
fiscal exactions of the Roman Church, and were ready to 
shake off in concert the yoke of the " modern Babylon." To 
save her supremacy in the South, Catholic Rome had to 
adopt the old device of Pagan Rome, Divide et impera. Like 
fire, she played a self-consuming part, and, at the cost of 
great pecuniary sacrifices, purchased the co-operation of the 
French and Italian princes in her work of exterminating 

The Prote-stants early opposed the principle of union amid 
diversity to the Catholic tenet of absolute unity. Protest 
against the abuses and errois of the Church of Rome was 
universal in Europe; but it assumed various forms, according 
to the character and composition of the races which divided 
the West. One may even refer the varieties of Protestantism 
to three principal types : the Saxo-Scandinavian type, repre- 
sented by Luther, Melanchthon, Bucer, Bugenhagen, and 

B 2 


Cranmer; the Franco-Helvetic type, which appears in Calvin 
and Zwingli ; and the Hispano-Italian type, impersonated in 
Servetus, Ochino, and the Sozzini. 

With the Lutherans, the protest was dictated by the 
requirements of the heart and conscience much more than 
by the claims of reason. It was in the name of conscience, 
outraged by the abuse which was being made of indulgences, 
that Luther affixed his theses to the Wittenberg Schloss- 
kirche ; but he still retained the cultus of the Virgin and the 
Saints. So also the English divines, when once they had 
secured pre-eminence to the principles of Paul and of 
Augustine in the dogmata of grace and redemption, accepted 
all the Catholic, dogmata, whatever they were, which did not 
injure the arteries of religious life.^ 

The Hispano-Italian school proceeds, on the contrary, 
from reason and from legal ideas, rather than from moral 
and mystical feeling. It combats the errors and abuses of 
the Roman Church by appealing to a legal text. It adopts, 
as its test of dogma, conformity with Holy Scripture, con- 
sidered as the inspired code of moral and religious law, and 
interpreted by sound reason. All doctrine which is not 
expressly authorised by the word of God, ought to be eli- 
minated, even though resting on the tradition of many 
centuries, the teaching of the Fathers, and the canons of 
CEcumenical Councils. 

Between these two types, which may be called the Lutheran 
and the Socinian, we find a third, the Zvvinglio-Calvinian, 
which shares some of the characteristics of each. Holding 
with the first that mystical tendency which can respect the 
merest doctrinal quibbles about the Lord's Supper and the 
two natures in Jesus Christ, it nevertheless has, in common 
with the second, that dialectical vigour and that juridical 

® J. H. Scholten, De Leer der Hei~vorinde Kerk in hare Gi 
sclcn 2 vols. 8vo. Leiden, 1862, 


power which produced the Institutio C/in'stia/ia; Rdi'giouis 
and the Ordinances of Geneva. 

M. Re'ville has judiciously remarked that, in the countries 
of the centre and the north of Europe, conscience had more 
to do with the Reformation than science, while in Italy and 
Spain reason took precedence of the moral and religious 
sentiment. Now it was precisely in the south that the Anti- 
trinitarian tendency was most pronounced. *" 

This Antitrinitarian tendency was indeed the logical result 
of the two ideas which were the motive forces of the Refor- 
mation, one being that the Christian Church and its dogmata 
had been radically corrupted by the Roman Catholic system, 
and that they must be purified by reduction to the apostolic 
norm ; the other, that Christian doctrine, to be of practical 
service, must be capable of coinciding with man's actual 
conscience, instead of remaining in the condition of abstract 
and transcendental formula. Such is the common opinion 
of all the extreme parties of the Reformation ; they main- 
tained that the religion of Jesus had suffered fundamental 
changes in its sacraments and its dogmata immediately after 
the disappearance of the first generation of Christians, and 
that everything not authorised by the Bible and the testi- 
mony of the apostles ought to be abolished. The Ana- 
baptists, on the strength of this principle, condemned infant 
baptism, the images of the Saints, and even that of Christ, 
and the special function of the clergy. They even went so 
far as to attempt a restoration of the Communism which 
prevailed in the Church of Jerusalem. The principle which 
the Anabaptists applied in the region of discipline and 
liturgy, the Antitrinitarians carried into the domain of 

^ Albert Reville, Hist, du Dogme dc la Diviriite de Jesus Christ, 1869. 
pp. 132, 142. [See English translation by Miss Swaine, pp. 174, 1S6. 
London, 1878.] 


dogmaJ These two tendencies set out from a common point 
of view, namely, the necessity for a radical reform of the 
Christian system, paying no heed to tradition or existing 
institutions. This is why, at first, they were so often con- 
founded with one another. 

The mere reading of the tides of the works of the first 
Unitarians, e.g. Martin Cellarius, Campanus and Servetus, 
is sufficient to convince us that they were thoroughly in 
earnest in taking in hand a radical regeneration of the 
Church. In 1527, Cellarius published his book De Opcribus 
Dei ; Servetus in 1553 gave to his great work the title 
Christiauismi Restitutio ; Campanus had already chosen for 
one of his works the significant title, Contra totnm post 
Apostolos mundum (1531?); for another, that of Gottiic/ier 
und heiliger Schrifft^ vor vielen yaren verdunkelt, inid durch 
nnheilsame Leer und Lerer (atis Gottes Zulasstmg) verfinstert^ 
Restitution und Besserimg. (Restitution and Renovation of 
Divine and Holy Writ, many years obscured, and, by sufferance 
of God, darkened through unsalutary doctrine and teachers, 
1532,) Not meeting in the Bible with the terms "Trinity," 
"homoousia" (consubstantiality), "eternal generation of the 
Son," " procession of the Holy Spirit," they thence con- 
cluded that all these dogmata were of human invention, and 
consequently hurtful to Christian faith. The notion of a 
complete purification of Catholic doctrine, distinguished 
from the outset the Unitarian radicals from the orthodox 
Trinitarians, who professed to conserve all that did not 
directly relate to the doctrine of Redemption. This clearly 
appears in a letter addressed, on 14 Sept. 1564, by Prince 
Mikolaj (Nicholas) Radziwill^ to Calvin, whom he did not 

'' F. Trechsel, Die Protcsta>itischen Antitrinitariervor F. Sociii., vol. i. 
8, g. Heidelberg, 1844. 

^ This prince, brother-in-law to Sigismund Augustus, King of Poland, 
and Palatine of Wilna, was one of the promoters of the Reformation in 


know to be already dead (24 May) : " Ex his et similibus 
doctrinis inferre et concludere conantur [Antitrinitarii], totam 
doctrinam in Papatu, etiam de hoc fidei nostrse fundamento, 
fuisse corruptam ; nihilque intactum reUquisse Antichristum, 
quod tetris et horrendis ille abominationibus non con- 
taminaret, non poUueret, non profanaret. Trinitarii contra 
concedunt quidem reUqua omnia pessumdata fuisse in 
Papatu ; hsec vero de primario fidei nostra; fundamento, 
singulari Dei beneficio, iUibata et inviolata permansisse."^ 

Alarmed at these extreme consequences, and fearing the 
loss of the support of the Princes if the very basis of the 
Church were upset, the Reformers appealed to the secular 
arm to repress the extravagances of the Anabaptists and 
Antitrinitarians. Hatzer at Constanz, Servetus at Geneva, 
Georg van Parris in London, were the first victims of this 
policy of repression. 

The appeal to the secular arm was, as Trechsel acknow- 
ledges, an inconsistency on the part of the Reformers. ^"^ I 
will add that the retention of the so-called Athanasian Creed, 
pure and simple, as the basis of the Protestant theodicy, was 

Poland. He was the protector of Lismanini, Biandrata, and Stancaro, 
which did not, however, prevent his keeping up a friendly correspondence 
with Calvin. Calvini Opera, ed. Baum, Cunitz and Reuss, vol. xv. 
2113, 2227, 2366 — 2371; vol. xvii. 2876, 3019; vol. xviii. 3232, 3238, 
3443; vol. xix. 3562, 3565; vol. xx. 4125. The letter quoted above is 
found in the archives of the Church of Zurich, Simler'' sclie Samndung, 
vol. ii. fol. no. 

^ [" From these and kindred doctrines [the Antitrinitarians] do their 
best to draw the inference and conclusion that the whole body of doc- 
trine, even as regards the foundation of our faith, was corrupted under 
the Papacy; and that Antichrist left nothing untouched by the contami- 
nations, pollutions and profanations of its foul and horrible abominations. 
The Trinitarians, on the other hand, while admitting that everything 
else was altered for the worse under the Papacy, nevertheless contend 
that this primary article and foundation of our faith was, by the singular 
providence of God, preserved unimpaired and inviolate."] 

^'' Trechsel, ut sup., vol. i. 11. 


another. As this Creed served as target for all the Anti- 
trinitarian batteries, it is right for us to reproduce here, /;/ 
exte/iso, that portion of it which relates to the doctrine of the 

Quicumque Vidt. 

" Whosoever will be saved : before all things it is necessary 
that he hold the Catholic Faith. 

" Which Faith except every one do keep whole and undefiled : 
without doubt he shall perish everlastingly. 

"And the Catholic Faith is this: That we worship one God 
in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity ; 

" Neither confounding the Persons : nor dividing the Sub- 

" For there is one Person of the Father, another of the Son : 
and another of the Holy Ghost. 

"But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy 
Ghost, is all one : the glory equal, the majesty co-eternal. 

" Such as the Father is, such is the Son : and such is the Holy 

" The Father uncreate, the Son uncreate : and the Holy Ghost 

" The Father incomprehensible (iniinensus)^ the Son incom- 
prehensible : and the Holy Ghost incomprehensible. 

"The Father eternal, the Son eternal: and the Holy Ghost 

" And yet they are not three eternals : but one eternal. 

"As also there are not three incomprehensibles, nor three 
uncreated : but one uncreated, and one incomprehensible. 

" So likewise the Father is Almighty, the Son Almighty : and 
the Holy Ghost Almighty. 

"And yet they are not three Almighties: but one Almighty. 

" So the Father is God, the Son is God: and the Holy Ghost 
is God. 

"And yet they are not three Gods: but one God. 

" So likewise the Father is Lord, the Son Lord : and the Holy 
Ghost Lord. 

"And yet not three Lords: but one Lcrd. 


" For like as we are compelled by the Christian verity : to 
acknowledge every Person by himself to be God and Lord ; 

" So are we forbidden by the Catholic Religion : to say, There 
be three Gods, or three Lords. 

" The Father is made of none : neither created, nor begotten. 

" The Son is of the Father alone : not made, nor created, but 

" The Holy Ghost is of the Father and of the Son : neither 
made, nor created, nor begotten, but proceeding. 

" So there is one Father, not three Fathers ; one Son, not three 
Sons: one Holy Ghost, not three Holy Ghosts. 

"And in this Trinity none is afore, or after other: none is 
greater, or less than another ; 

" But the whole three Persons are co-eternal together : and 

" So that in all things, as is aforesaid : the Unity in Trinity, 
and the Trinity in Unity is to be worshipped. 

" He therefore that will be saved : must thus think of the 

This confession of faith, attributed to Athanasitis, but which 
did not bear his name' at the outset, and was originally 
drafted in Gaul, towards the middle of the eighth century, 
jarred so harshly with the whole system of biblical theology, 
that the Reformers would willingly have abandoned it, had 
they not seen in it an effective bulwark against the attacks 
of what they called the fanatical, or as we should now say, 
the radical party in Protestantism, namely, the iVnabaptists 
and Antitrinitarians. Luther, in his Sermon for Trinity 
Sunday, and Melanchthon, in his correspondence, make 
some significant admissions on this subject. 

The importance they attached to individual opinion, led 
them to qualify the Athanasian formula in an Arian sense ; 
so that it has been justly said that they themselves brought 
on the decline of the Trinitarian dogma. In fact, from their 
point of view, man could neither be saved by the efficacy of 
sacraments, nor in virtue of a passive adhesion to revealed 


dogma. To have saving power, it was indispensable that 
Christian truth should enter a man's own soul, and should, 
so to speak, become incarnate in his conscience. In other 
words, it was incumbent upon the initiators of the Reforma- 
tion to do away with every mediator, divine or human, save 
one, and so to place man in direct relations with God. But 
if God be the complex and unintelligible Being who is offered 
to us in the Symbolum Qjiimniqiie, and Jesus Christ a hypos- 
tasis (constituent personality) of that Being, it may well be 
asked how the faith and love of the sinner could fasten upon 
such a Deity. What confidence, what sympathy, what per- 
sonal affection can be inspired by a Being who is neither 
Single nor Three ? Accordingly the Reformers insisted upon 
the human character of Christ. 

And it is this which justifies the remark of F. C. Baur, 
paradoxical as it may almost appear, that " Melanchthon, 
Servetus, and Fausto Sozzini, notwithstanding their diver- 
gent tendencies, resembled each other in the attitude which 
they assumed towards the traditional dogma of the Trinity. "-^^ 
Only, what in Melanchthon is simple indifference, becomes 
positive criticism in Servetus, and reaches the stage of nega- 
tive and radical criticism in the Fratres Poloni. We have 
here a veritable process of decomposition of the Trinity ; 
and it is worth while to enter into details, in order to explain 
the share which the most orthodox Reformers took in the 

In the first place we are struck with the circumstance that 
Melanchthon, both in the original draft and in the primary 
edition (152 1) of his Loci Commimes, the first systematic 
exhibition of Protestant dogma, accords to the Trinity no 
further, treatment than this short rubric in the list of topics : 
" Deus, Unus, Trinus" Was this an inadvertence ? Assur- 

^^ Baur, Die Christlichc Lehrc dcr Drcieinigkcit, vol. ii. 33, note. 


edly not. As he deals in a similar way with other dogmata 
of like nature, e.g. the Creation and the Incarnation, 
Melanchthon makes it evident that, to his mind, all these 
dogmata on which the schoolmen had so perseveringly 
exercised the subtleties of their dialectic, were but mysteries, 
no doubt worthy of respect, but which we ought not to 
scrutinise too closely for fear of obscuring the evidence for 
the Redemption. "Did Paul," says he, "in that compendium 
of Christian doctrine which he addressed to the Romans, 
take to philosophising on the mysteries of the Trinity, the 
modus of the Incarnation, or on active and passive creation ? 
No, he occupies himself with Law, Sin and Grace, funda- 
mental topics, on which alone the knowledge of Christ 
depends."^- Such a passage savours of a reminiscence of 
this practical maxim from the De Imitatione : "What doth 
it profit thee to reason profoundly concerning the Trinity, 

^" "Proinde, non est cur multum operse ponamits in locis illis supre- 
mis : de Deo, de Unitate, de Trinitate Dei, de mysterio Creationis, de 
modo Incarnationis. Quseso te, quid adsecuti sunt jam tot soeculis 
scholastici theologistre, cum in his locis versarentur ? .... Paulus, in 
epistola quam Romanis dicavit, cum doctrinae Christianas compendium 
conscriberet, num de mysteriis Trinitatis, de modo Incarnationis, de 
Creatione activa et Creatione passiva philosophabatur? At, quid agit? 
Certe de lege, peccato, gratia, quibus locis solis Christi cognitio pendet." 
Melanchthon, Loci Commtmes rerum tJieologicarmn sen Hypotyposes 
TheologiccE, in 0pp. edit. Bretschneider, vol. xxi. 84, 85. ["Accord- 
ingly, we are not called upon to expend much labour upon those 
supreme topics, viz. concerning God, his Unity, his Trinity, the mys- 
tery of Creation, the modus of the Incarnation. I ask what has been 
gained by the scholastic theologians, though they have been employed 
upon these topics for so many centuries? .... When Paul, in the 
Epistle which he addressed to the Romans, wrote a compend of the 
Christian doctrine, did he philosophise about the mysteries of the Trinity, 
the modus of the Incarnation, Creation active and Creation passive? 
No. But of what does he actually treat ? Assuredly of law, sin, grace, 
topics on which alone the knowledge of Christ depends."] 


if thou be void of humility, and thereby displeasing to the 
Trinity? "^^ 

True it is that afterwards, influenced by the overflow of 
extreme opinions, Melanchthon felt himself forced as a 
matter of duty into reaction against the Antitrinitarians. 
Thus, from the time of the lirst edition of the Augsburg 
Confession (1530), he condemned the doctrine of the new- 
fangled {neoterici) as well as of the ancient disciples of 
Paul of Samosata ; and, later, in a letter addressed to the 
Venetian Senate (1539), he utters an energetic warning 
against the ideas of Michael Servetus, and undertakes a new 
proof of the Trinitarian dogma. 

Yet, in his earlier correspondence, it is easy to see that 
he approached these questions with misgiving rather than 
with zest. For example, he writes (1533) to Camerarius : 
" Concerning the Trinity, you know that I have always 
feared lest these controversies should some day break out. 
Good heavens ! what tragedies will these questions excite, 
when put to those who come after us : Is the Word a hypos- 
tasis? Is the Spirit a hypostasis? For my part," he con- 
cludes, " I rely on those express declarations of the Scripture 
which command us to invoke Christ, for this is to assign 
to him the honours of Divinity, and it is a practice full of 

Luther, with his practical good sense, could not fail to 
share the gentle Melanchthon's antipathy to these irritating 

13 De Imit. J. C. lib. i. cap. i. 

14 " Hfpi rfjc TptaiJoc scis me semper veritum esse, fore ut hsec ali- 
quando erumperent. Bone Deus ! quales tragoedias excitabit hrec 
qusestio ad posteros, ei eoriv vnoaTaaiQ 6 Aoyoq; u sarlv vnoaTnatg to 
nvsvi^a ; Ego me refero ad illas Scripturae voces, quas jubent invocare 
Christum, quod est ei honorem divinitatis tribuere, et plenum consola- 
tionis est." Melanchthon to Joachim Kammermeister, 9 Feb. 1533. — 
Bretschneider, vol. ii. 629, 630. Cf. vol. iii. 745. 


problems. In two curious Sermons, preached on Trinity 
Sunday, the Wittenberg doctor, while adhering to the doc- 
trine of the three-fold personality of God, confesses that 
there is here an unfathomable mystery ; and, as regards its 
dogmatic expression, we must be content with Scripture 
terms, for God alone knows His own nature, or how it is 
right to speak on this matter. As for the personality of the 
Holy Spirit, Luther had no clear conception of it.^^ In his 
reply to Latomus, Luther went so far as to declare that the 
word homooiisios was nowhere to be found in the Scriptures, 
that it was a hateful word to him, and that it would be much 
better to invoke the Deity under the name of God than 
under that of Trinity.^" What confirms our suspicions is 
that, in his translation of the Bible, Luther omits, as being 

^^ " Man diesen Namen, Dreifaltigkeit, nirgend findet in der Schrift, 
sondem die Menschen haben ihn erdacht. . . . Darum . . . viel besser 
sprache man, Gott, denn die Dreifaltigkeit. Diess Wort bedeutet aber, 
dass Gott dreifaltig ist in den Personen." " Er [der heilige Geist] ist das 
damit der Vater durch Christum und in Christo Alles wirkt und lebendig 
macht." Luther's IVerke, Erlangen edit., vol. xii. 378, xxii. 20. Cf. 
Maurice Schwalb, Luther, ses Opinions religicuses et morales dans la 
Preiniere Periode de la Reformation. Strassburg, 1866. ["This name 
Trinity is nowhere found in Scripture, but is the invention of men. . . . 
Therefore ... it were much better to say ' God' than 'Trinity.' This 
word signifies, however, that God is tri-personal." " He (the Holy Ghost) 
is that whereby the Father worketh and quickeneth all things, through 
Christ and in Christ."] 

^^ Paulus prrecipit . . . ut vitares prophanas vocum novitates . . . et sacris 
vocum antiquitatibus inha'reres. . . . Nee est quod mihi 'homoousion' illud 
objectes, adversus Arrianos receptum. Non fuit receptum a multis, iisque 
praeclarissimis, quod et Hieronymus optavit aboleri. . . . Nee Hilarius hie 
aliud habuit quod responderet, quam quod idem per id vocabuli signifi- 
caretur, quod res esset ; et tota Scriptura haberet id, quod in prassenti 
non datur. . . . Quod si odit anima mea vocem ' homoousion' et nolim ea 
uti, non ero hcereticus. . . . Scripturse enim synceritas custodienda est, nee 
prassumat homo suo ore eloqui, aut clarius, aut syncerius, quam Deus 
elocutus est ore suo." — M. Littheri Opera Omnia, ed. Amsdorf, Jena, 


an interpolation, the passage on the Trinity in the First 
Epistle of John, chap. v. ver. 7 ; and in the Litany he gets 
rid of the invocation, ''' Sancta Trinitas^ tinits Deus : miserere 
nobis." These two suppressions, it must be acknowledged, 
were altogether in favour of the Antitrinitarians.^'' 

If, from the German, we now pass to the French branch 
of the Reformation, we shall observe the same indifference 
at the outset in regard to the Trinity. This coldness, then, 
towards the dogma of a tri-personal God is no isolated fact, 

vol. ii". 1560, p. 407; Epistola M. L. ; Rationis Latomiana, pro incen- 
d'uiriis Lovaniensis Schola Sophistis redditce, Lutherana Confutaiio. [" Paul 
exhorts ... to avoid profane novelties of words, . . . and cleave to the 
ancient sacred forms of speech. . . . Nor may you bring up against me 
that word homoousios, received in opposition to the Arians. Received it 
was not, by many, and those of the first mark ; and even Jerome wished 
it well away. . . . Nor had Hilary any defence to make for it, except that 
what was denoted by this vocable answered to the fact ; and that the 
whole run of Scripture had the idea, which is not expressly set forth. . . . 
But if my soul hateth the word ko??iootisws, and I be unwilling to use it, I 
shall not therefore be a heretic. . . . For we must guard the soundness of 
the Scripture; and let not man presume to speak more clearly or more 
soundly than God hath spoken with His own mouth."] 

^'^ Catholic Litany of the Holy Virgin. 
Kyrie eleison ! Christe eleison ! 
Christe audi nos ! Christe exaudi nos ! 
Pater de coelis Deus : miserere nobis ! 
Fill redemptor mundi Deus : miserere nobis ! 
Spiritus Sancte Deus : miserere nobis ! 
Sancta Trinitas, unus Deus : miserere nobis ! 
Sancta Maria, ora pro nobis ! 

Litany, corrected by Luther. 
Kyrie : Eleison. 
Christe: Eleison. 
Pater de coelis Deus : 
Fill redemptor mundi Deus : 
Spiritus sancte Deus: 
Miserere nobis ! 
Luther's IVcrke, edit. De Wette, vol. Ivi. 362. 


it is a phenomenon naturally arising from the two-fold 
principle of the Reformation, the authority of Scripture and 
justification by faith. Let us now open Farel's So7nmaire et 
brieve Declaration d\iucuns licnx fort necessaires a ung chacim 
Chretien (Brief Summary of topics very needful for every 
Christian), that excellent manual of evangelical doctrine, 
which, by its conciseness of form and freshness of expression, 
contributed so much to make the Reformation popular in 
the French-speaking countries. In vain we look in it for 
the topics of the Trinity, the personality of the Holy Spirit, 
or even the divinity of Jesus. Christ is thus defined : "true 
Son of God, the arm, power, word, and wisdom of the 
Father, whom, as man, God has chosen as His holy temi)le 
and tabernacle, wherein dwelleth all the Godhead^ not 
figuratively, but bodily and in truth." And, as if to justify 
his omissions, Farel says expressly: "All that has not clear 
and firm foundation in the Scripture is to be rejected in 
dealing with salvation and the nature of God, which are 
spiritual and heavenly things." ^^ 

Accused, on this account, of leaguing with the Anabaptists 
and Servetans, Farel felt bound to add an explicit adhesion 
to the doctrine of the Trinity in his edition of 1552, pub- 
lished at Geneva during the year before the trial of Michael 

Finally, not even Calvin, that implacable adversary of 

^* Edition of 1532, reprinted by J. G. Fick, with Preface by Professor 
Baum. Geneva, 1867. 

^^ On 23 Aug, 1534, Joliann Zwick, pastor at Constanz, wrote to Vadian, 
of Claude Aliodi (of Savoy), who a short time before had been pastor at 
Neuchatel: ^^Collega>?i se habere testatur qui paria secum opinatur, Farel- 
liim scilicet, si modo non est falsus in ilium." [" He affirms that he has a 
colleague whose opinions are on a par with his own, Farel to wit, if he 
be not a false witness against him."] Now, that Claude (of Savoy) had 
made in the church of Constanz profession of Antitrinitarianism, see 
Herminjard, Correspondance des Re/ormateurs, iii. 173, 174, n. 2 and 7. 


Michael Servetus and Gentile, could keep free of the move- 
ment directed against the doctrine of the Trinity.-*^ This is 
seen even in his writings against Servetus, and in his letters 
to the Polish Brethren against Stancaro, "^ in which he 
acknowledges that the terms Triiiitas and homoousia savour 

^^ See his Disputation with Caroli, first Doctor of the Sorbonne, then 
pastor at Lausanne, who charged Calvin with Arianism. " ' Facessant,' 
[aiebat CaroH] ' novae Confessiones, ac tribus symbolis potius subscriba- 
mus.' Ad hasc Calvinus, '' Nos in Dei uniics Jideni jurasse,' respondit, 
' non Athattasii, cujiis symbohim nulla unquani legitima Ecclesia appro- 
bassety Herminjard, ut sup., iv. 185, Letter of Feb. 1537. ["'Away 
with new Confessions,' said Caroli, ' and let us rather subscribe to the 
three Creeds.' Calvin replied, ' We have pledged ourselves to faith in the 
One God, not to faith in Athanasius, whose Creed has never received 
the approbation of any rightful Church.' "] 

'^ Calvini Opera, ed. Baum, Cunitz and Reuss, vol. ix. 332 — 35S. 
(Cf Letter from Prince Radziwill to Calvin, on the Trinity, 6 July, 1564, 
XX. 4125.) 

1. Respoiisiitn ad Fratres Polonos, qiioinodo mediator sit Chrisius, eontra 
Stancarum (1560). 

2. Ministrortim Eeclesitt Gcnevensis Responsio, ad lYobiles Polonos, et 
Francisciim Stancarum (March, 1561). 

3. Brevis Admonitio (1563)- 

4. Epistola Joannis Calvini, qua fidem Admonitionis nuper edittv 
apud Polonos confirmat (1563). In this he says : " Tenenda quoque est 
loquendi ratio Scripturje trita, dum Christus, quatenus mediator est, infe- 
rior Patre statuitur. . . . Utile . . . supersedere a formulis loquendi ... a 
Scripturse usu remotis. . . . Precatio vulgo trita : ' Sancta Trinitas unus 
Deus : miserere nostri,' mihi non placet, ac omnino barbariem sapit. 
Nolim igitur vos de rebus supervacuis litigare, modo illibatum nianeat 
quod dixi de tribus in una essentia personis. " [" Moreover, we must 
adhere to the usual phraseology of Scripture, by which Christ, as mediator, 
is made inferior to the Father. ... It is well ... to set aside foiins of 
speech . . . diverging from Scriptural usage. . . . The hackneyed prayer 
in common use, ' Holy Trinity one God : have mercy on us,' does not 
commend itself to me, and altogether savours of barbarism. Therefore 
I would not have you stickle for things of no consequence, provided 
you keep unimpaired the doctrine I have laid down respecting the three 
Persons in one Essence."] 

Cf supra, p. 14, the Litany of the Virgin, as corrected by Luther. 


of the barbarism of the Schools. This is especially evident 
in his Harmony based on the Gospel according to St. 
Matthew, and in his Commentaries on the Fourth Gospel. 
Of all the passages quoted by orthodoxy in favour of the 
Trinity, Calvin does not admit a single one in the sense 
attached to it by the CathoUcs. And, in his exegesis of the 
passages, John v. 19, x. 30, xvii. 21. he explicitly distin- 
guishes Jesus Christ, as the Son, from the eternal Logos, a 
hypostasis of the Divinity, by insisting that Christ speaks 
here in his human nature. In respect of his divine nature, 
he declares Christ to be inferior to God the Father." 

Hence, by a logical consequence, Calvin, in his catechisms 
and prayers, never addresses either the Son or the Holy 
Spirit, but God alone,-^ in which he shows himself more 
consistent than Fausto Sozzini, who admits the invocation 
of Jesus Christ as God. 

This brief review of the teachings of the Reformers respect- 
ing the Trinity suffices to prove that the Antitrinitarian 
movement was in reality the logical development of the Pro- 
testant principle, and that, when they unreservedly adopted 
the Athanasian Creed, they fell into an inconsistency.-* 

^^ Scholten, ut sup., vol. ii. 231, 233. 

^^ [Note also that Calvin particularly resented the term Trinitarian, 
first applied to its present use by Servetus, and made it a count in his 
indictment that Servetus had called believers in a tripersonal God 
Trinitaires. ] 

-* Hulderich Zwingli expresses himself in a Sabellian sense. About 
1525, he states his doctrine in these terms : "Nos enim sic Deum agnoscen- 
dum . . . docemus, ut sive Patrem eum nomines, sive Filium, sive Spiritum 
Sanctum, perpetuo tamen eum intelHgas, qui solus bonus, Justus . . . est. 
Contra, cum Filio omnia tribuimus, ei tribuimus qui id est quod Pater, 
quod Spiritus Sanctus; cujus regnum est, cujus potentia, eodem jure quo 
Patris et Spiritus Sancti : ipse enim hoc ipsum est quod Pater, quod 
Spiritus Sanctus, servato nihilominus notionum, ut vocant, discrimine." 
De Vera et Falsa Religione. [" For we teach that God .is in such wise to 
be acknowledged . . . that whether you call him Father, or Son, or Holy 



By degrees, a separation was realised between the radical 
parties of the Reformation. The Antitrinitarians, repulsed 
by all the churches, Calvinist, Zwinglian or Lutheran, as a 
new sort of Arians, who insulted the divinity of Christ, 
and even as Atheists, who demoUshed the edifice of Reve- 
lation, learned the necessity of declining all corporate union 
with Anabaptists and Pantheists. It is the merit of Fausto 
Sozzini and his co-workers that they reached the conception 
of a theological system of which the Divine Unity and the 
life eternal were the fundamental positions, and founded a 
church with intelligible sacraments and a rational form of 
worship. Hence it is with justice that the name of this 
Reformer has been attached to the form of Unitarian Chris- 
tianity which we have just defined. We must, however, 
beware of believing, on the testimony of his virulent oppo- 
nents that Fausto Sozzini impugned the divine majesty of 
Christ. If, relying on certain texts of Scripture, he refused 
to attribute to Jesus participation in the Divine essence, on 
the other hand he proclaimed him to be God, in virtue of 
his office of Redeemer and his immaculate sanctity. In his 
eyes, the supreme end of the Christian religion was to secure 
man's admission to eternal life ; and it was to this end that 
Jesus died and rose again.-^ And in this, Sozzini's ideas 
much resemble the Scriptural view adopted by Melanchthon 
in his letter to Camerarius. The obligatory adoration of 

Spirit, you are still to understand that Being who alone is good and 
just. . . . And, vice versa, when we attribute all to the Son, it is to that 
Being who is identical with the Father and the Holy Spirit, whose 
kingdom and power belong to him by the same right by which they 
belong to the Father and to the Holy Spirit: for he is the self-same 
Being as the Father and the Holy Spirit ; the three conceptions are 
notwithstanding to be kept distinct."] Zwinglii Oj>p. iii. 179, 180. 

■■'S Cf. F. Socini Opera, 2 vols, folio, in the Bihliothcca Fratruiii Polo- 
norum, Irenopolis (Amsterdam), "post annum Domini 1656," i.e. 1665 


Christ even became the cause of serious conflict among the 
Transylvanian brethren, Ferencz (Francis) David openly re- 
fusing divine honours to Jesus ; a course which was followed 
in Poland by the Arians, and in Lithuania by Szymon Budny. 

As for the Holy Spirit, in the Socinian system it was but 
an alter ego of the ascended Christ, without distinct person- 
ality ; a moral influence of the grace of God, to achieve the 
work of sanctification. Such is, with some modifications, 
the official doctrine which still binds the Unitarian churches 
of Transylvania ; a doctrine which may be accused of a cold 
Deism and of a purely juridical conception of justification, 
but which cannot be denied the merits of a penetrating 
criticism, and great logical and moral strength. If the 
Socinians have distanced Christ from God, they have, on the 
other hand, brought him nearer to man, by representing him 
as being like unto us in all things, sin excepted ; and thus 
they are truly, whatever may be said to the contrary, legiti- 
mate sons of that Reformation of which the capital aim was 
to place the sinner in immediate relations with his Saviour. 

It was reserved for the English to complete the work 
begun by the Polish brethren, and to free the Unitarian 
system from the inconsistencies which Fausto Sozzini had 
permitted to remain in it. The Anglo-Saxon race brought 
to the examination of this theological problem those superior 
qualities which have made it at the present date the advanced 
guard of civilisation in the world— great critical sagacity, 
rare straightforwardness of mind, and an inflexible morality. 

Reverting with Calvin to the old apostolical tradition, the 
later English Unitarians have reserved to God alone the 
tribute of their addresses in prayer. But instead of con- 
ceiving Him as a cold and abstract causality, governing the 
moral as well as the physical world by inexorable law, they 
have grasped the conception of God as Ruler of consciences 
and Father of spirits ; the unipersonal and life-giving Spirit, 
whose essential attribute is love, and who desires the happi- 

C 2 


ness of every soul, made in His image. Christ, in their eyes, 
is the supreme revealer of the truths essential to salvation, 
and the living word of God ; by nature, Son of man, in his 
goodness and perfect holiness he has a right to the title, Son 
of God ; but he never claimed the worship reserved to the 
Father, who is the only true God. As for man, he is truly 
free and responsible before God ; not a slave of sin, inca- 
pable of doing any good. Endowed with an immortal soul 
of divine extraction, he communicates with God through the 
Holy Spirit ; and in another life he will be treated in 
accordance with his moral efforts, not according to his 
dogmatic opinions. Finally, the Bible is the treasure which 
contains the revelations of God in the Old and New Testa- 
ments ; but this revelation is not all, and the Bible must be 
supplemented by the revelations of God in nature, in history, 
and in conscience. 

Such are the principal elements of the Unitarian Chris- 
tianity held in the seventeenth century by Bidle, Milton and 
Locke: by Newton, Priestley and Lindsey-*^ in the eighteenth 
century; and in the nineteenth by Channing, Martineau and 

Everybody now knows that it is with good reason that 
Locke and Newton are classed as Unitarians. Still more 
certain is it that the immortal author of Paradise Lost held 
ideas that were clearly Antitrinitarian.'-^" In our own century 
two distinguished American thinkers have shed the brighest 
lustre on the Unitarian Christianity of the Anglo-Saxon 
race : Channing, by his admirable simplicity of heart and 
his intelligent sympathy with the sons of toil, and Theodore 

-" A. Reville, itt stip., p. 154. Cf. Dr. Martineau, Three Stages of 
Unitarian Theoloi^y ; W. Gaskell, Strong Points of Unitarian Chris- 
tianity. London: British and Foreign Unitarian Association, 1869-70. 

-'' R. Wallace, Antitrinitarian Biography, art. Milton. 3 vols. Svo. 
London, 1850. 


Parker, by his noble vindication of freedom for the slave 
and his nobility of character, have given to Unitarianism 
that which it lacked in its Socinian stage, as regards the life 
of the heart and knowledge of the soul's needs. It may be 
said that in Channing Unitarian Christianity attained the 
apogee of its development, and manifested all the power of 
its social and emancipating activity. The Christianity of 
Channing appears tons a synthesis of revelation and reason, 
brought within the comprehension of all.-^ 

If we have made sure our ground so far, the question 
which now faces us is the following : Unitarian Christianity 
being the boldest expression of Protestantism, the extreme 
term of the development of the scriptural and rational prin- 
ciples of the Reformation, how comes it that it has attained 
its fullest development among a people so conservative and 
so wedded to established forms as the English ? What are 
the causes, external or internal, which have produced in 
such a country the opposite extremes of Protestantism — on 
the one hand Unitarianism, and on the other Ritualism ? 
How has the same soil given birth to a John Bidle and a 
Dr. Pusey? Several solutions present themselves at once 
to the mind. It might be possible, for example, to view 
Unitarianism as a direct graft of Polish Socinianism on the 
venerable trunk of the Anglican Church. Some, on the 
contrary, insist that it is an importation of Dutch Anabap- 
tism ; and this belief has obtained credence with one of the 
most serious historians of Socinianism. -^ Finally, others 
have thought that, like Puritanism, Unitarianism has only 
been an attempt to acclimatise in England the ideas of cer- 

-^ Laboulaye, Preface to the French translation of Channing's Works 
(CEuvrcs de Chaniiing: Paris, 1854). V^QW'A.n, Etudes Religieuses {QYi'iSi- 

-^ Pere Louis Anastase Guichard, Hisioire du Socmiaiiisinc : Paris, 
1723, 4to (anonymous). 


tain Swiss Reformers. As generally happens in the case of 
such opposite solutions, there is a certain amount of truth 
in each of these views, although not one of them seems to 
us entirely adequate. However this may be, there is a pre- 
liminary problem to be solved. We must first ascertain 
whether English Unitarian Christianity is or is not of purely 
English origin. It is with the consideration of this question 
that our investigations will begin. 


Was Unitarian Christianity of English origin?— Its relation to Wiclif 
and the Lollards ; to Reginald Pecock ; to the Nonconformists. — The 
Anglican Church. 

The essential principles of Unitarian Christianity may be 
reduced to the following two. First stands the principle 
that God is a simple, individual substance, whose leading 
attribute is love. ^A''hence it follows that Jesus Christ could 
not be a hypostasis (constituent personality) of the Godhead, 
but is man created in God's image, and realising in perfec- 
tion the spiritual ideal of which the first Adam fell short. 
Or, in other words, God is unipersonal ; and Jesus Christ 
the unique Mediator between God and man. The second 
principle is, that the revelation contained in the Holy 
Scriptures harmonises with the testimony of conscience and 
reason ; and consequently that the sole rightful authority in 
matters of faith is the Bible, checked by free criticism.^ 

This being the definition with which we start, let us 
try to discover whether Unitarianism may not have had its 
original roots in the religious soil of England. It would be 
useless to go further back than Wiclif. Before his time, the 
Anglican Church was the most catholic, the most orthodox, 
the most ultramontane in Europe.^ Everybody knows at 

^ Laboulaye, ut sup., 9 ff. 

"^ G. Lechler, J. von Wiclif uiid die VorgeschicJite der Reformation, 
vol. i. 213 : Leipz. 1873. [A portion of this work, under the title, John 
Wiclif and his English Precursors, has been translated by Peter Lorimer, 
D. D, (London: Kegan Paul and Co., 1881). See pp. 17, 18, 51 53.] 


what price John Lackland redeemed his crown ; but no one 
will ever know what Peter's pence cost the English, in the 
three centuries during which they were obliged to pay that 
tribute to the Holy See. After the annihilation of the sect 
of the Culdees, the last relic of Eastern Christianity, the 
Roman Church reigned absolute mistress over the churches 
of Great Britain ; and, thanks to their insular position, had 
been able to keep them from the infiltration of any conti- 
nental heresies. The Waldenses appear never to have had 
any disciples here. 

John Wiclif (b. circ. 1324, d. 1384) is the first heretic of 
modern times in England. Was he unorthodox as regards 
the doctrines of the Trinity, and of the divinity of Jesus 
Christ ? Not so. A mere glance at his chief work, the 
Trtalogus,^ shows us that Wiclif adopted the doctrine of the 
Trinity as it had been elaborated by Tertullian, Athanasius 
and Augustine, and brought to its complete development 
in the Symbolum Qidaunque. Although Holy Scripture was 
in his eyes " Goddis lawe," that is to say the normal and 
sufficient authority in matters of faith, the Gospel Doctor 
{Doctor EvangeHciis) does not appear to have dreamed of 
seeking there the grounds of the doctrine of the Trinity. 
He prefers to study it from a sj)eculative point of view. 
Borrowing from St. Augustine his Platonic ideas, Wiclif sees, 
in the Father, the power which God has of knowing Himself 
and the world ; in the Son, the actual consciousness which 
God necessarily possesses of Himself; and in the Holy 
Spirit, the consequent return of God to rest upon Himself in 
divine repose.'' From the point of view of the ReaHst school 

3 Jeremy Collier, Ecd. Hist, of Gr. Brit. (edit. Barham, 1840), iii. 143. 

■* See F. C. Baur, nt sup., ii. 901. Cf. Wiclif, Trialogus, lib. i. cap. 6. 
" Certum est quod [Deus] habet potentiam ad se et ad alia cognoscendum, 
et ilia potentia dicitur Deus Pater. Et quantum potest se ipsum cognos- 
cere, tantum se ipsum necessario cognoscit, et ilia notitia dicitur Deus 
Filius. Et sicut non potest esse quod sic posset se ipsum cognoscere, 


to which he belonged, the Rector of Lutterworth sees in 
all these ideas real and living objects. He especially clings 
to the conception of God the Son as the Logos, that is to 
say, at once the Consciousness and the Reason, whereby 
God enters into relations with the world. To him, this 
Logos is the true Mediator. It will be seen that, in this 
system, the humanity of Christ completely disappears ; the 
human mask drops off, the God abides in his redeeming 
but absolutely transcendent majesty. We are a long way 
from the fundamental principle of Unitarianism. 

Nevertheless, on a closer scrutiny it will be seen that 
Wiclif opens the way for the later theology by his theory of 
the sources of knowledge. In the main, Wiclif puts Scrip- 1 
ture in the place of the second of the two sources allowed r 
by the scholastic doctors, which were, reason {ratio) and the ) 
tradition of the Church {auctorifas). The Bible is in his 
eyes the Magna Charta of the Church, in the same way as 
the Charter of 12 15 is the safeguard of the English State. 
As regards exegesis, it is the Holy Spirit, not the tradition 
of the Fathers or the voice of the Pope, that reveals to us 
the meaning of the inspired word. Further, the divine law 
revealed in the Bible did not come to abolish, but to fulfil, 
the natural law written in the consciousness of mankind 
by the same God. Far from being impotent or contrary to 
Revelation, this "natural hght" is its best auxiliary. This 

nisi cognoscat actualiter quantum potest ; sic non potest esse, quod sic 
actualiter se cognoscat, nisi in seipso finaliter quietetur ; et ilia quietatio 
est Spiritus Sanctus." [" Certain is it that [God] hath a potency whereby 
He may know Himself and other matters; and that potency is called 
God the Father. And as He can know Himself, so doth He of necessity 
know Himself, and that knowing is called God the Son. And like as it 
cannot be that He could thus know Himself, without that He do actually 
know Himself, as He can ; so can it not be that thus He actually doth 
know Himself, without that in Himself He finally do take rest; and 
that taking of rest is the Holy Spirit."] 


it was that enlightened the pagan philosophers before the 
advent of Jesus Christ, and by its aid Plato was able to dis- 
cover that the Godhead is three-fold and at the same time 
one. Yet faith alone, aided by divine grace and illumina- 
tion, can attain a meritorious, that is to say, a saving, know- 
ledge of the mystery of the Trinity. ^ Thus Wiclif is really 
a rationalist as regards his method ; and if he retained the 
Trinitarian dogma, it was because he did not take the trouble 
of checking it by a more thorough criticism of the Gospels. 
He admits the essential harmony of Reason and Revelation, 
and thereby he is truly one of the forerunners of the "rea- 
sonable" Christianity of Locke and Channing. 

Had not Wiclif himself a glimpse of better days when he 
penned these prophetic words : " I look forward to the time 
when some brethren whom God shall condescend to teach 
will be thoroughly converted to the primitive religion of 
Christ ; and that such persons, after they have gained their 
liberty from Antichrist, will return freely to the original doc- 
trine of Jesus ; and then they will edify the Church, as did 

It is only given to superior minds to reconcile the anti- 
nomies of religious thought. After Wiclif, divorce was pro- 
claimed between the two great witnesses of divine truth. 
The Lollards, heirs of the piety but not of the science of 
the Gospel Doctor, exaggerated the principle of Scriptural 
authority, while Reginald Pecock, their antagonist, goes so 
far as to make reason the guiding principle in matters of 
faith. The Lollards, who at the outset counted in their 
ranks several distinguished representatives of the English 
clergy and of the University of Oxford — -Nicholas Hereford, 

^ G. Lechler, ut sup., cap. viii. sec. iii. 262 ff. : The Source ofChnstian 

^ See title-page to A Historical Sketch of the Rise and Progress of the 
Lhtitarian Christian Doctrine in Modern Times, with Preface by Robert 
Spears. London, 1877. 


John Purvey, John Ashton and William Thorpe — became, 
after the lapse of a generation, a religious society of laymen — 
" Bible-men," as they were often called. We must not, then, 
expect on their part much theological culture; what they 
demanded, above anything else, was the reformation of the 
institutions and the priesthood of the Church, on the footing 
and by the agency of Biblical preaching. Everything that 
was not founded on the written Word was bad and must be 
abolished. Thus they inveighed against plurality of livings ; 
against the absenteeism and the dumbness of the bishops, 
whose preaching was done by ignorant monks; against the 
mendicant orders, and against tithes. They pleaded against 
warfare, and indeed against the taking of human life in any 
form. Their boldest step was to call in question the miracle 
of the Mass. They demanded communion in both kinds, 
and the abolition of auricular confession. They rejected 
prayers for the dead. The remaining dogmata and sacra- 
ments they, like Wiclif, retained in their integrity. '' 

Reginald Pecock, Bishop of St. Asaph and afterwards of 
Chichester (b. 1398, d. about 1460), is one of the most 
remarkable figures of the fifteenth century. He exhibits the 
curious spectacle of a representative of the Catholic hierarchy 
who, while desirous of defending it against the attacks of 
the Lollards, himself fell into heresy, and was mercilessly 
deprived by his Metropolitan. Nothing was wanting to make 
him a martyr for the truth, except a firmer resolution and 
the courage to face the tortures of the stake. Yet it is not 
by us that his retractation shall be set down as a crime. It 
is not given to all men to become martyrs to their convic- 
tions. By the side of a John Hus and a Jerome of Prag, 
there is room for a Galileo. Pecock was pre-eminently a 
man of sincere and generous spirit, of clear and moderate 
mind. He was perhaps the only man of his century who 

^ G. Lechler, tit sup., vol. i. 213. 


thought, with John Hus, that it is far better to persuade a 
heretic than to burn him ; and that God alone, who reads 
the inmost recesses of the soul, has the right to pass sentence 
of damnation. Accordingly, being persuaded that the Lol- 
lards went too far in their criticisms of ecclesiastical insti- 
tutions and the priesthood, he devoted all the powers of his 
mind to bring them back again within the fold of the Esta- 
blished Church. In London, where for thirteen years he 
was Master of Whittington College (the College of the Holy 
Spirit and St. Mary, founded by Sir Richard Whittington) 
and Rector of St. Michael Royal, he entered into relations 
with those who were still called "knowen men"^ (that is to 
say, those whom God has predestined to salvation, and who 
have come to know it by the understanding of His Word). 
Having become later on Bishop of St. Asaph, and ultimately 
of Chichester, he published in succession three books ad- 
dressed to the Lollards : The Repressing of over viuch Witing 
the Clergie (1449 Latin, 1456 English), the Book of Faith 
(1450 Latin, 1456 English), and the Donat. 

In these several works, Pecock endeavours to demonstrate 
the falsity of the Lollard principle, " There is nothing true 
outside of the Scripture." He reminds them that, shortly 
before the coming of Jesus Christ, the light of truth, aug- 
mented by philosophy, had enlightened the pagans, in so 
much that the greater part of them had become emancipated 
from the worship of idols ; and he specifies several institu- 
tions of the Church, such as baptism and the apostolate, 
which had been founded long before the sacred collection 
was formed. On the other hand, the Bishop of Chichester 
frankly acknowledges the errors of tradition, and the abuses 

^ Pecock's Repressor, Part i. cap. 11, p. 53. Cf. Foxe, Actes and 
Motiuments, vol. iv. 221. [Cf. i Cor. xi. 19: "It bihoueth eresies to be 
that thei that ben preued ben openli knowen in ghou" (Wiclif s trans- 
lation). Cf. also "the Men," in the Highlands of Scotland to-day.] 


to which certain institutions, such as monachism, had given 

In the last resort, Pecock declares that Christians are 
only bound by the canons of the Church in so far as they are 
conformable to common sense. Thus he proclaims reason 
as the highest source of knowledge. This was too much for 
the hierarchy of the fifteenth century. The restoration of 
the Lollards to the Church appeared to the Archbishop of 
Canterbury too dearly bought at the sacrifice of infallibility 
and tradition. The unfortunate Bishop of Chichester, after 
a career of a half century devoted to the search for truth and 
peace, was condemned to a humiliating retractation, which 
he had to make (4th Dec. 1457) at St. Paul's Cross, the very 
place where he had preached his first sermon in 1447. He 
was shut up in Thorney Abbey for the remainder of his days, 
and did not long survive this double punishment. 

Throughout this controversy between Pecock and the 
Lollards, the Trinity was not called in question, so far as we 
know. The matters at stake were the two contrasted prin- 
ciples of Reason and Scripture. Each of these principles 
possessed a strong vitality ; and they survived the conflict, 
while the infallibility of the Church, denied by them both, 
was seriously shaken. Reginald Pecock was the father of 
English Rationalism, which broke out in the seventeenth 
century with Herbert of Cherbury ; while the scriptural prin- 
ciple of the Lollards, pushed as far as it would go, was sure 
to give birth to the Anabaptist and Antitrinitarian tendencies 
of the sixteenth century. 

Following the movement of the Lollards, we are brought 
to the threshold of that great religious revolution which 
marked the sixteenth century, and which the Roman Catholic 
Church in England could not escape. Historians of the 
two rival confessions have been very unjust toward the 

^ G. Lechler, ut snj>., vol. ii. 369—415. 


Anglican Reformation. Catholics are resolved to see nothing 
in it but the caprices of the royal Bluebeard ; and Protes- 
tants affect to treat it as a bastard daughter of Catholicism. 
A few, however, as recently Professor Nippold, of Berne, 
have set themselves to do away with this prejudice, and to 
extol the eminent services rendered by this Church to the 
interests of religious life in England. "The Nonconformists," 
he observes, "gathered into their barns the best of the har- 
vest prepared by the sowers of the Episcopal Church." ^^ 

In our opinion, too, the violent and arbitrary acts of 
Henry VIII. represent only the preliminary process which 
emancipated the Church of England from the crushing 
supremacy of the Holy See, and rendered possible a real 
reformation of religious and of ecclesiastical life. These 
acts, however, would not have been possible, even to an 
all-powerful despot, had they not been sustained by the 
opinion of the majority in the Commons. It is too fre- 
quently forgotten that, since the reign of Edward III. (1327 
— 1377), the English Crown had struggled for the indepen- 
dence of the civil power, and for the abolition of the fiscal 
spoliation practised by the Holy See.^^ Wiclif had been 
the adviser of the Crown in this legal resistance, and one of 
the negociators at the Convention of Bruges. Since then 
there had been alternations of resistance and weakness in 
the English attitude towards the Court of Rome ; but the 
policy of emancipation from clerical thraldom was always 
popular in England, and this it was which gave Henry VIII. 
liberty to act so vigorously. 

The aristocratic and hierarchical tendency of a reform 
effected by the upper stratum is represented in the English 

1" F. Nippold, Handbuch der neiiestcn Kirchcngeschichtc, 3rd edit, 
vol. i. 71 : Elberfeld, 1880. 

" See Montagu Burrows, Wiclif s Placcin History, pp. 42 ff.: London, 


Reformation by Thomas Cromwell, Keeper of the Privy Seal, 
the minion of Henry VI 1 1., and pre-eminently by Cranmer, 
Archbishop of Canterbury. Cranmer was a thorough poli- 
tician, a typical English Tory, conservative, but too intelli- 
gent not to carry out indispensable reforms just in time. 
His principle was, to take steps with a sagacious slowness. 
He began by signing and obtaining the Convocation's 
acceptance of certain " Articles devised by the Kinges 
Highnes Majestic, to stablyshe Christen quietnes and unitie 
among us, and to avoyde contentious opinions" (1536). 
These Articles of Reformation stipulated that the books 
contained in the complete canon of the Bible, with the three 
Creeds, namely, the Apostles', the Nicene and the Atha- 
nasian, all interpreted according to the sense of " the holy 
approved Doctors of the Church," were to be made the 
foundation of the Christian faith. Cranmer's idea was to 
accomplish the reformation of dogma and ritual slowly and 
prudently, in order not to provoke violent reactions. This 
did not commend itself to the partisans of reform in the 
popular sense, who, without taking into account the worldly 
interests of those in place and power, would have put down 
at one stroke Catholic institutions and Catholic rites, as the 
sources of many an abuse. These partisans, recruited largely 
from the ranks of the Lollards, though deprived of the ser- 
vices of the travelling preachers of earlier days, had still 
itinerant readers, who went from place to place holding 
secret assemblies, in which were read the English Bible, and 
other popular writings of Wiclif, especially the Wicket. Gene- 
rally they had large portions of the Scriptures by heart, and 
went among themselves by those same titles of Bible-men, 
or "knowen men,"i"'^ which we have already met with in the 
writings of Pecock a century and a half before. 

Between these two tendencies, which F. Guizot was the 

G. Lechler, lit sup., vol. ii. 456 ff. 


first to denote with precision in his History of the English 
Revolution}'^ and -which we will designate as Reformation 
and Revolution, the struggle soon broke out. Henry VIII., 
declared by statute " the only supreme head on earth of the 
Church of England" (1532), and being already Defender of 
the Catholic Faith, abused the royal prerogative to pass the 
Six Articles of 1539, which re-established the dogma of the 
Real Presence, communion in one kind, the celibacy of the 
clergy, vows, private masses, and auricular confession. These 
Articles, and the severities with which the king chastised the 
Nonconformists, excited general protest. The Act could 
not survive its author, and was withdrawn on the accession 
of the pious Edward VI. 

It is from this too short reign (1547 — 1553) that the 
birth of the Anglican Church really dates. A third element 
arose to co-operate in its formation, the influence of the 
Lutheran Reformation, exerted in part by the books of 
Luther, in part by the letters of Melanchthon (Schwartzerde) 
and Osiander (Hosmann), lastly in part by the presence of 
the numerous refugees who sought in Great Britain an asylum 
from the persecution which raged on the continent. The 
influence of the writings of the Doctor of Wittenberg is in- 
contestable. It transpires in the very violence of the refuta- 
tions of Henry VIII. Still the theologians of Great Britain 
could never accept the doctrine of a servum arbitrium (com- 
pulsory choice) and a radical powerlessness of the human 
will ; hence they felt themselves more drawn towaids the 
synergistic principle of Melanchthon (consent of the will). 
Cranmer even invited Melanchthon to visit England. This 
step was no more successful than the like invitation of 
Francis I. had been, and it was more especially with Osiander 
of Nlirnberg that Cranmer kept up a correspondence. 

It is a remarkable fact that the Augustinian cloister in 

13 Guizot, Hist, de la Rcvol. cfAiiglderre (introductory Discows). 


London was the spot which became the point of contact 
for these two last-named tendencies. There it was that the 
descendants of the Lollards, the Bible-men, met the followers 
of the rule of St. Augustine, who had embraced the doc- 
trines of their illustrious brother of Erfurt. This rapid dis- 
semination of the writmgs of Luther among the principal 
Augustinian convents in Europe was truly providential. The 
fraternal bond, in this instance, served the cause of liberty. 
In Antwerp, in Turin, and in London, the Austin friars were 
the agents in causing the first sparks of evangelical truth to 
flash from amid the darkness of the reigning scholasticism. 
A curious document shows us two of these Bible-readers 
going under cover " to Frear Barons, then being at the Freers 
Augustines in London, to buy a New Testament in Englishe" 
as newly printed, and showing him some old manuscripts of 
the Gospels, and "certayne Epistles of Peter and Poule in 
Englishe." They spoke with him about the religious pro- 
gress of their parish priest at Steeple Bumpstead (Essex), and 
carried back for him a letter of exhortation from the Augustine 

From 1547, Bucer (Kuhhorn) and Fagius (Buchlein), 
Ochino (Tomassini) aijd Vermigli, came into close relations 
with Ridley and Latimer, the representatives of the spirit of 
Wiclif These picked theologians of the continent, welcomed 
by Archbishop Cranmer, and placed in the principal chairs 
of Oxford and Cambridge Universities, helped to make the 
Anglican Church the most cosmopolitan and, in certain 
respects, the most synthetic body that one can conceive. 
The first Book of Common Prayer, published in 1549 and in- 
cluding the new Liturgy of 1548, the Reformatio legtim eccle- 
siasticarum of 1553, and the Thirty-nine Articles of 1563, are 
the products of this conjoint elaboration. Let us see if we 
can find any traces of Unitarianism in them. 

^■* Strype, Ecdes. Memorials, vol. i. part 2, app. No. 17. See Appen- 
dix I. 


We open the Prayer Book of 1549, and here, "at Morning 
Prayer," we find the following rubric : . " In the feasts of 
Christmas, the Epiphany, Easter, Ascension, Pentecost, and 
upon Trinity Sunday, shall be sung or said, immediately 
2S.\.Qx Beiiedictiis, this confession of our Christian faith." Then 
follows the Quicumque vult}^ A i^w pages further on we 
read the following Litany : 

" O God the Father of heaven : have mercy on us, &c. 
O God the Son, Redeemer of the world, &c. 
O God the Holy Ghost, proceeding from the Father and the 

Son, &c. 
O holy, blessed, and glorious Trinity, three Persons and one 

God, have mercy upon us," &c. 

Thus it is clear that the English reformers retained, in their 
vernacular rendering, that invocation of the Holy Trinity 
which Luther had deemed it right to suppress. Further- 
more, they inscribed at the head of the list of the Thirty- 
nine Articles, passed by the Convocation in 1563, these 
words : 

" I. — Of Faith in the Holy TriJiity. 

" There is but one living and true God, everlasting, without 
body, parts, or passions; of infinite power, wisdom, and good- 
ness ; the Maker and Preserver of all things both visible and 
invisible. And in unity of this Godhead there be three Persons, 
of one substance, power, and eternity ; the Father, the Son, and 
the Holy Ghost." '« 

Such to this day is the official doctrine of the Anglican 
Church, a doctrine Calvinian and Trinitarian. This Church, 
of which it has been said that it is Catholic in its hierarchy, 
Calvinistic in its doctrine, and Zwinglian in its Eucharistic 

'' [It was, however, retained only on the above days. On ordinary 
occasions the Apostles' Creed was now for the first time substituted for 

■"' See Book of Common Prayer (Articles of Religion). [Cf. Hardwick, 
History of the Articles, Appendix iii. : London, 185 1.] 


liturgy,^''' was definitively established, and became the national 
Church of England, under the glorious reign of Elizabeth. 

Compromises in religion are, in their very nature, even 
more ephemeral than compromises in politics, because the 
religious conscience is more exacting than political convic- 
tion even the most decided. For a time they may satisfy 
the needs of the multitude ; but, to the honour of human 
nature, there ever remains a certain number of consciences 
who tamper not with their convictions, and maintain them 
in spite and in face of all persecutions. It was the glory 
of the Anglican Church that, at a crisis in the reign of Eli- 
zabeth, it identified itself with the cause of national inde- 
pendence, in face of the menacing claims of Sisto V. and 
Philip II. The secret of its decadence is that it completely 
satisfies none of the tendencies of the Christian conscience, 
roused by the thunder-clap of Wittenberg. The remnants 
of Catholicism which it has retained provoked the Puritan 
revolt, its sacramental element was rejected by the Anabap- 
tists and the Quakers, and finally its scholastic Christology 
gave rise to the protest of the Unitarians. 

In subsequent chapters we shall study in detail Anabap- 
tism and Puritanism, in their relation to Unitarian ideas. 

We may, however, be permitted at once to explain the 
genesis of these contrasted sects. Anabaptism and Quaker- 
ism, though they sprang up in England at the distance of a 
century from each other, exhibit great affinities both of prin- 
ciple and of character. Both proceed from a violent reaction, 
in the name of Scripture and the Holy Spirit, against for- 
malism in worship. Both aimed at a radical reform of such 
ecclesiastical rites, and even of such social institutions as 
appeared to them opposed to the true idea of the Church, 
such as military service, episcopacy, oaths, &c. George Fox, 

^^ [It was Lord Chatham, on the other hand, who said : " We have a 
Calvinistic Creed, a Popish liturgy, and an Arminian clergy."] 

D 2 


in this regard, is the worthy counterpart of Menno Simons. 
On the other hand, they differ in the origin and tendency 
of their doctrines. The Anabaptists have all preserved, 
more or less, a reflex of the speculative mysticism of Ger- 
many, the country of their origin ; while the Quakers, in 
spite of their pretensions to a mystical illumination, have 
never lost the practical character of the Anglo-Saxon race. 

However, in the sphere of theodicy, the Quakers share 
the principle, common to all mystics, that the relation of 
man with God is not merely accidental and intermittent, but 
essential and permanent. They take for granted, to begin 
with, that God is Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, without 
going into details respecting the relations of the Persons to 
one another. God is pre-eminently, in their view, a self- 
revealing Being ; in such wise that there is no way of know- 
ing the Father without the Son, nor the Son without the 
Holy Spirit. Again, there is in man an organ of immediate 
revelation, in intimate connection with the Holy Spirit ; 
and this they term '■'' semen" "lumen" '"'' verbiun Dei.^' From 
this rapid sketch, it is manifest that it is not among the 
English Mystics that we are to seek the origin of the Unita- 
rian idea.^^ These fall rather into a kind of Sabellianism. 

As for Puritanism, it is, first and foremost, a thorough- 
going protest against the Episcopal hierarchy and Catholic 
ritual retained in the Anglican Church ; a protest on behalf 
of the constitution of the Apostolic Church. In other words, 
it is, as Schoell remarks, an attempt to acclimatise in England 
"the ideas and practices of the Swiss Reformers." Of the 
three contrasted religious parties, this one it was which 
played the most important part in opposition to the Esta- 
blished Church. Its mouthpieces were, under Edward VI., 
John Hooper, Bishop of Gloucester, a friend of Bullinger, 

■'^ See Robert Baixlay, Theolognr vere Christiana Apologia : Amster- 
dam, 1676, 4to. Quoted by Baur, nt step., vol. iii. 295. 


who perished during the bloody reaction under Mary Tudor 
(1555); and, afterwards, John Knox, a disciple of Calvin, 
and the Reformer of Scodand. The two parties, brought 
together for the moment by a common persecution, found 
themselves more antagonistic than ever under Elizabeth ; so 
much so, that the Puritans broke into schism in 1566, and 
declared, twenty years afterwards, in the foundation charter 
of the Presbyterian Church, that they could dispense with 
the help of the Government in the reformation of discipline. 
Notwithstanding all the vexations to which they were sub- 
jected, they adopted pretty closely the confession of faith 
of the Anglican Church, and, among other articles, the first 
one concerning the Trinity. 

But the more animated and even savage grew the conflict 
between the Anglican and Presbyterian parties, the more 
did calm and reflective minds and gende hearts feel the 
need of discovering, beyond and above all parties, some 
neutral ground where they could re-unite on a basis of 
reason and piety. It was this need which gave birth in 
philosophy to the theism of Herbert of Cherbury,^^ and in 
religion to the Latitudinarianism of Chillingworth and the 
Unitarianism of Bidle. 

"Before Bidle," writes Alexander Gordon, in a letter 
which we have received from him, " I am not aware of any 
Antitrinitarian author who wrote in English, or who was of 
English origin. But Antitrinitarian works, written in Latin, 
came over from Holland." Let us therefore see if Unita- 
rianism can be considered a Dutch importation. 

^^ G. Lechler, Geschichte des Englischen Deisnms, chap. i. : Stuttgart 
and Tubingen, 1841, 8vo. Cf. E. Sayous, Les Deistes Anglais . Paris, 


Was Unitarian Christianity imported into England from the Loav 
Countries? — Its relation to Erasmus and the Anabaptists. 

The assertion just quoted corresponds with that of Pere 
Guichard. He tells us that what allowed Socinianism 
to gain an entry into England was the indulgence shown 
(in 1535) towards certain Dutch Anabaptists, exiled on the 
death of Jan van Geelen.^ Strype, again, the exact but 
desultory chronicler of the annals of the Reformation in 
Great Britain, relates that in the year 1548 Arian and Ana- 
baptist heresies began to make their appearance. These 
denied psedo-baptism, the incarnation of Jesus Christ, the 
authority of magistrates, the lawfulness of oaths, and the 
rights of individual proprietorship. They pretended also 
that Jesus must have been really man, since he shared the 
attributes of human nature, such as hunger, thirst, and a 
visible body ; tind they declared that the real service ren- 
dered by Christ was, that he led mankind to the accurate 
knowledge of God.^ In this class are to be reckoned John 
Assheton, an English priest (who afterwards recanted), and 
the celebrated Joan Bocher, known by the name of Joan of 
Kent, who spread the Scriptures abroad, and who underwent 
martyrdom with great courage.^ 

^ Guichard, tit sup., p. 126. 

^ Strype, Cranmer's Mcfiiorials, vol. i. book ii. chap. viii. (1548). 

' 'RoheriYI^Wz.cQ, AntitrmitarianBiagj-ap/iy. 3 vols. London, 1S50. 
(Introduction, p. 6.) 


If we now turn to M. de La Roche's abridgment of Brandt's 
History of ihe Reformatmi in the Low Countries^ we shall 
light on a significant document.* This is the judicial exami- 
nation to which an Anabaptist preacher in the province of 
Flanders, Herman van Flekwijk (burnt at Bruges, lo June, 
1569), was subjected by Cornelis Adriaans, of the Franciscan 
convent at Dordrecht, and inquisitor at Bruges, in presence 
of the Secretary and of the Clerk of the Inquisition : 

Inquisitor. " What ! Don't you believe that Christ is the 
second person of the Holy Trinity.'"' 

Anabaptist. " We never call things but as they are called in 

Scripture The Scripture speaks of One God, the Son of 

God, and the Holy Spirit." 

Inq. " If you had read the Creed of St. Athanasius, you would 
have found in it ' God the Father, God the Son, and God the 
Holy Spirit.'" 

Anab. " I am a stranger to the Creed of St. Athanasius. It 
is sufficient for me to believe in the living God, and that Christ 
is the Son of the living God, as Peter believed ; and to believe 
in the Holy Spirit, which the Father hath poured out upon us 
through Jesus Christ our Lord, as Paul says." 

Inq. " You are an impertinent fellow, to fancy that God pours 
out His Spirit upon you, who do not believe that the Holy Spirit 
is God ! You have borrowed those heretical opinions from the 
diabolical books of the cursed Erasmus, of Rotterdam, who, in 
his Preface to the Works of St. Hilar}', pretends that this holy 
man says, at the end of his twelfth Book, ' That the Holy Spirit 
is not called God in any part of the Scripture ; and that we are 
so bold as to call Him so, though the Fathers of the Church 
scrupled to give Him that name.' Will you be a follower of that 
Antitrinitarian ?".... 

* G. Brandt, Histoire abregee de la Reformation aux Pays-Bas, 3 vols. : 
The Hague, 1726, vol. i. 178. [The original, in Dutch, was published 
at Amsterdam, 1671 — 1674, 4 vols. 4to, plates. It has been translated 
into Latin and English. Dr. Toulmin published, 1784, Flekwijk's 
Examination, as A Dialogue between a Dtikh Protestant and a Franciscan 
Fiiar. See Wallace, ut sup., ii. 273.] 


Anab. " God forbid I should deny the divinity of Christ ! We 
beheve that he is a divine and heavenly person ;....! call him 
' the Son of the living God,' as Peter does, and ' the Lord,' as the 
other Apostles call him. He is called in the Acts of the Apostles, 
'Jesus of Nazareth, whom God raised from the dead.' And Paul 
calls him ' that man by whom God shall judge the world in 

Inq. " These are the wretched arguments of the cursed Eras- 
mus, in his small treatise ' On Prayer,' and in his ' Apology to 
the Bishop of Seville.' If you are contented to call Christ the 
' Son of God,' you do not give him a more eminent title than that 
which St. Luke gives to Adam." .... 

Anab. "God forbid! We believe that the body of Christ is 
not earthly, like that of Adam, but that he is a heavenly man, 
as Paul says." .... 

Inq. " But St. John says . . . . ' There are three that bear 
record in heaven, the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit, 
and these three are one.'" 

Anab. " I have often heard that Erasmus, in his Annotations 
upon that passage, shows that this text is not in the Greek 

" Thereupon Broer Cornells, turning to the Secretary and the 
Clerk of the Inquisition, said: 'Sirs, what think you of this? 
Am I to blame because I attack so frequently in my sermons 
Erasmus, that cursed Antitrinitarian ? Erasmus has done worse 
still. He says in his 'Annotations upon the Gospel according 
to St. Luke,' chapter iv. ver. 22, that a strange falsification has 
crept into the holy Scripture, by interpolating some words, on 

account of the heretics Nay, this Antitrinitarian whom you 

see here, and the arch-heretic Erasmus, reproach us with having 
added these words, 'Who is over all, God blessed for ever. 
Amen,' in Rom. ix. 5. Or else they pretend that this doxology 
ought to be translated thus : ' Of whom, as concerning the flesh, 
Christ came, who is over all. God be blessed for ever. Amen.'" 

We have reproduced this lengthy extract from an Inqui- 
sitorial report of 1569, because it exhibits a lively picture 
of the extent to which Anabaptism was saturated with Anti- 
trinitarian ideas, as well as of the de2:ree of influence exer- 


cised by the exegesis of Erasmus on the Christology of the 
Reformers. It is not difficult to recognise traces of this 
influence in Luther's Bible and in Calvin's Commentaries. 
Still more decidedly was it felt in England, where Erasmus' 
Annotations and his Paraphrases upon the New Testament 
were officially introduced into every parish (1547). More- 
over, the great missionary of the Renascence had resided at 
Oxford for several years (1498 — 1500), had been professor 
at Cambridge (1509), and had lived in intimate relations 
with the leaders of the new learning in England, John Colet, 
Linacre and Latimer. It is worth while, therefore, to inves- 
tigate the measure of his own approach to Unitarian Chris- 

If we examine the passages in the writings of Erasmus 
bearing upon the Trinity and the divinity of Jesus Christ, 
we find ourselves confronted by two sets of utterances in 
direct opposition to each other. Those in the one set tend 
to destroy the chief Scriptural arguments invoked in aid of 
these dogmata ; those in the other, on the contrary, protest 
with animation against accusations of Arianism, and display 
the official dogma. The passages coming under the former 
category are in general to be met with in his Annotations 
and in his Preface to the Works of St. Hilary.'^ 

One of the most remarkable is the note upon the cele- 
brated verse i John v. 7. Having justified his omission of 
this gloss by the testimony of the Fathers and of the oldest 
manuscripts, Erasmus adds {0pp. v. 1080): 

" But some will say that this verse is an effective weapon 
against the Arians. Very true. But the moment it is proved 
that the reading did not exist of old, either among the Greeks 
or among the Latins, this weapon is no longer worth anything. . . . 

' Cf. Erasmi Opera, edit. Leclerc, vol. vi., 10 vols, folio : Leyden, 
1706. Annotationes ad Rom. ix. 5; ad Ephes. v. 5; ad Philipp. ii. 6; 
ad I Johan. v. 7, &c. Cf. Divi Hilarii, Pictavorum Episcopi, Lucubra- 
tioHCS, per Erasmum cmendatcE : Basle, 1523. See Appendix II. 


Even admitting it were undisputed, do we think the Arians such 
blockheads as not to have appHed the same interpretation [as in 
the previous verse] to the Father, the Word, and the Holy Spirit? 
. . . Such performances rather compromise than strengthen the 
faith Far better is it to employ our pious studies in endeavour- 
ing to resemble God, than in indiscreet discussion with a view to 
ascertain wherein the Son is distinguished from the Father, and 
wherein the Holy Spirit differs from the other two." 

On the other hand, in his Explication of the Apostles' 
Creed, and in his Apology, addressed to Alfonso Manrico, 
Archbishop of Seville, against the heretical articles extracted 
from his works by certain Spanish monks,*^ Erasmus expresses 
his adhesion to the Trinitarian dogma in these terms : 

"All my studies, in innumerable places, clearly proclaim agree- 
ment with the definition of the Trinity handed down by the 
Catholic Church, namely, the equality of the Divine nature in 
three persons ; or better still, the same undivided essence in three 
persons, distinct in that which is peculiar to each (proprietates)^ 
but not in nature." 

This contradiction is not merely apparent, but real. It 
results from the false attitude which Erasmus had assumed 
towards the Roman Church, opposing the ignorant and fana- 
tical. monks in behoof of the rights of philology and criti- 
cism, but in the last resort subordinating — we were going to 
say sacrificing — the results of his inquiry to the authority of 
the Church. Erasmus resembles an astronomer who should 
come and tell you, "All my observations lead me to think 
that there is but one sphere in the sun ; but the Church 
teaches that there are three, so I bow to its decision." He 
makes this avowal in his letter to Wilibald Pirckheimer, when 
he says, "The Church has so much authority in my eyes, 

® Apologia adversiis articulos aliquos pa' inonachos quosdam in Hispania 
exhibitos, Reverendiss. Alfonso Mam-ico, archiepiscopo Hispalensi: Basle, 
14 March, 1528. Erasmi Opera, ix. 1023. Cf. Explication of the Apostles 
Creed, vol. v. 1 1 39. 


that I would subscribe to Arianism and to Pelagianism, if 
these doctrines were approved by the Church."'' 

If Erasmus was not Unitarian, in the proper sense of the 
term, he at any rate, by his strictly philological exegesis, 
supplied weapons to the adversaries of the Trinity, particu- 
larly to the Anabaptists of the Low Countries. What is 
more, this most moderate of the initiators of the Reforma- 
tion, with his strong good sense, and a spirit of tolerance 
almost unknown in that age, pleaded the cause of these 
radicals against the magistrates of Zurich, who mercilessly 
carried out Zwingli's cruel jest upon the Anabaptists : " Qui 
iterum mergunt, mergantur ipsi" (Dip the twice dippers, 
and drown them). 

" What," cries he, speaking of the people of Zurich, " they 
maintain that their own friends ought not to be punished with 
death as heretics, and yet they put to death the Anabaptists, 
though these are people against whom hardly a reproach can be 
cast, yea, though many of them have given up a very bad, and 
taken to a very virtuous life. , Mistakes they may commit, but 
never have they laid siege to towns and churches."* 

It here devolves upon us to determine by investigation 

- ^ Erasmus Roterodanius Bilibaldo Pirckheimero (Basle, 19 Oct. 1527) : 
" Ecclesiam autem voco totius populi christiani consensum. . . . Quantum 
apud alios valeat auctoritas Ecclesi^, nescio ; certe apud me tantum valet, 
ut cum Arianis et Pelagianis sentiri possim, si probasset Ecclesia quod 
illi docuerunt. Nee mihi non sufficiunt verba Christi, sed mirum videri 
non debet, si sequor interpretem Ecclesiam, cujus auctoritate persuasus 
credo Scripturis Canonicis." (Erasmi 0pp. iii. part i. 1028, letter 905.) 
[" By the Church I mean the consentient voice of the entire Christian 
community. . . . What value may be attached by others to the authority of 
the Church, I cannot say. Certainly with me it is so strong that I can 
think with the Arians and Pelagians if the Church had approved what 
they have taught. It is not that the words of Christ are insufficient for 
me ; but it ought not to seem strange if I follow the Church in her inter- 
pretation of them, since it is on the persuasion of her authority that I 
believe the Canonical Scriptures."] 
* Brandt, jU sup.., vol. i. 33 if. 


what are the points in common between Anabaptism and 
Unitarian Christianity, and wherein they differ. In con- 
ducting this investigation, we shall leave aside the German 
Anabaptists, such as Johann Denk (d. 1527) and Ludwig 
Hatzer (d. 1529), Martin Cellarius, or Borhaus (d. 1564), 
and Melchior Hofmann (d. 1550),-' as not directly belonging 
to our subject. We shall deal specifically with the Nether- 
land Anabaptists, inasmuch as in them the Baptist ideas of 
the continent found the vehicle of their transmission into 
England. Such were Jan van Geelen, David Joris, Adam 
Pastoris and others. 

Anabaptism made its appearance in the Low Countries 
almost as soon as it did in Germany. One may say of this 
region what Professor Ch. Schmidt has said of the Rhine 
Provinces in the middle ages, that it was the classic ground 
of heresy. From Leiden and Haarlem came the leaders 
of the Miinster Anabaptist movement, Jan Bocholdt (or 
rather Beukelszoon) and Jan Matthias, or Matthisson, of 
Haarlem ; and we must do these men the justice to observe 
that, if they had recourse to revolutionary proceedings by 
way of reforming the Church and society, they bore with 
courage the terrible measures of repression of which they 
were the victims. The two first agents of the sect were Jan 
^Vaaden and Jan Trijpmaaker (i. e. plush-maker). The latter, 
a friend and representative of Melchior Hofmann, had re- 
baptised many citizens of Amsterdam. Both were arrested, 
put to torture, and burnt alive at The Hague (1527 and 
1533). The year following, Jan Van Geelen, one of the 
followers of the Prophet of Miinster, provoked a species of 
riot at Amsterdam (March, 1534). One fine morning, the 

" [This exclusion of Hofmann is qualified in the next paragraph. His 
personal relations with Holland were very close ; and the influence of 
his opinions in England was direct. See Robert Barclay, Inner Life of 
Religions Societies of the Cominonwealt/i, 3rd ed. p. 14: London, 1879.] 


citizens of the great city were startled out of their sleep by 
a hundred or so of Anabaptists, who, divested of every gar- 
ment and brandishing naked swords, ran through the streets 
crying out, " We are the naked truth 1 Woe to the wicked ! 
Repent, and the blessing of the Lord shall rest upon the 
city !" They were arrested and sent to the stake. Two 
years later, Anabaptism had made such progress, that van 
Geelen succeeded in surprising and taking the Town-hall of 
Amsterdam, and fortified himself in it with two or three 
hundred of his partisans. Artillery had to be employed to 
force them to yield. Van Geelen himself was killed during 
the assault (lo May, 1535). The survivors were quartered, 
and their hearts, still palpitating, torn out. 

Among the Anabaptists of the first raw stage, socialistic 
and revolutionary instincts took precedence of religious 
wants and theological systems. But we now come into 
contact with an original thinker, the author of nearly three 
hundred treatises, some of them of great length, and by his 
correspondence brought into relations with nearly every 
country in Europe. David Joris,^^ born at Delft (1501) of 
poor parents, learned the profession of glass-painter ; but, 
endowed with an ambitious and turbulent character, and a 
teeming imagination, he began publicly to declaim against 
the idolatrous pageantries of the Catholic worship, and was 
a first time expelled from his native town, after having had 
his tongue pierced. Having been re-baptised by Obbe 
Philips, he went back to Delft ; and persuading himself, as 
the result of certain visions, that he was the first-born of the 
Spirit, the new Adam, he began an active propagandism. 
He soon acquired such influence that, at the Conference 

i" [His baptismal name was Jan ; his father's name was Georgius Joris, 
and hence he had the patronymic of Joris, or Joriszoon. He is said to 
have got the name of Uavid from his playing that part as assistant to his 
father, a travelling mountebank.] 


held (August, 1536) near Buckholdt, in the diocese of 
Miinster, he succeeded in reconciUng the four branches 
of the Anabaptist sect : the Hofmannites, the Miinsterians, 
the Battenburgians, and the Mennonites.^^ However, the 
magistrates of Delft having been informed that Joris and his 
assistant, Mainard van Emden, held assemblies day and 
night, ordered (2 January, 1538) all Anabaptists to leave the 
town in eight days, and set a price on the heads of the two 
preachers. The Anabaptists having allowed the time to 
expirej in expectation of miraculous aid, thirty-five were 
ssized and executed. Among these was Mary, the mother 
of David Joris. The persecution spread to the towns of 
Haarlem, Amsterdam, Leiden and Rotterdam. Following 
these bloody deeds of repression, in 1535 and 1538, came 
the first emigrations of Anabaptists to England ; where, on 
the contrary, the laws against heretics had lately been some- 
what relaxed. 

After wandering about for many years, and having vainly 
appealed to the Landgrave Philip of Hesse (about 1543), 
Joris retired to the neighbourhood of Emden, in East Fries- 
land, where he gathered a little community around him. 
This town, which is now only known as a commercial port, 
was then the focus of a great religious agitation. The 
different parties, Lutheran, Calvinist and Catholic, there 
fought for souls, and gave themselves up to polemics. The 
Anabaptists, under the guidance of Obbe and Dirk Philips, 
sons of a Catholic priest of Leeuwaarden, had formed nume- 
rous societies. When John a Lasco (Jan Laski) was charged 

^^ ["A certain Englishman of the name of * Henry' was very active in 
promoting this meeting, and himself paid the travelling expenses of the 
deputies. England was represented by John Mathias, of Middleburg 
(who was afterwards burnt at London for his adhesion to the tenets of 
Melchior Hofman). It is interesting to notice that the representatives of 
England were very indignant at the loose views of the Miinster party." 
Barclay, Inner Life, p. 77, his authority being Nippold's Life of Joris.] 


by the reigning Countess Anna of Oldenburg to introduce 
the Reformation into her states, and to give a regular orga- 
nisation to the Church (1540 — 1548), the noble Pole had 
particularly to contend against the Anabaptist societies of 
Menno Simons and David Joris. For example, he main- 
tained, about 1543-44, a very curious controversy in writing 
with Joris,^'-^ but did not succeed in disabusing him of his 
belief in a "supernatural vocation." 

The ideas of Joris, as expounded in his V Wonderbocck 
(Book of Wonders), and in his Explication of the Creation, 
are reducible to this fundamental principle, " that the true 
Word of God does not consist in the outward letter of the 
Bible, but in the inner voice which is audible to a humble 
and believing heart." As for the Trinity, he thought it a 
useless problem, and one which concerns only those who 
are well prepared for meditation on celestial things. He 
explains himself, however, on this point in his IVonde^book. 
Joris declares that there is but " one God, sole and indi- 
visible, and that it is contrary to the operation of God 
throughout creation to admit a God in three persons, or 
that the three make but one, as taught in the Athanasian 
Creed." Nevertheless, resuming the old theory of Joachim 
of Flora (d. 1202), he admits that God has revealed himself 
in three human persons, Moses, Christ and David (doubtless 
David Joris), who preside over three great periods of history. 
Joris was excommunicated by the disciples of Melchior Hof- 
mann at Strassburg, and by those of Menno Simons in Fries- 
land, on account of his Antitrinitarian opinions. He took 
refuge in Basle, where, under the name of Johann von 
Brugge, or von Binningen, he lived in comfort and with 
security, in the society of two wives. He died on the 2nd 
August, 1556. 

^^ See the learned monograph of Prof. Nippold, of Berne, on David 
Joris, in the Zeitschrift fiir Histonsche Tkeologie, 1863, 1864, 1868; 3rd 
article, p. 575. 


Around this same church of Emden flits the figure of 
another Anabaptist teacher, Adam Pastor, who had also 
been excommunicated by the Mennonites for his Antitrini- 
tarian opinions. In the